Is Ohio Keeping Another Innocent Man on Death Row?

Yes, and more! Stop the death penalty!

From The Atlantic
Jan 31st 2012
Instead of searching for the truth, the state is going to absurd lengths to defend a dubious death sentence.

Last year, the execution of Troy Davis captured most of the attention, and generated most of the debate, on the topic of capital punishment in America. Davis was put to death by lethal injection in Georgia three quarters of the way through a year that saw a general decline in support for (and implementation of) the death penalty. This year, just a few weeks in, there’s an early candidate for such a spotlight: a death row inmate in Ohio whose case raises many of the same questions about fair trials and justice that surrounded the Davis case.

In fact, you could argue that the capital murder case against Tyrone Noling is even weaker than the one against Troy Davis. And you could argue that the capital punishment regime in Ohio is just as arbitrary and capricious as it is most anywhere else. In 1996, Noling was convicted of murdering Cora and Bearnhardt Hartig, an elderly couple, at their home in 1990. At first, though, there was no physical evidence linking Noling to the crime. Not a gun. Not any blood. Not any money or loot. And at first, there were no witnesses against him, either.

Frustrated prosecutors then gave the case to an investigator named Ron Craig and everything changed. Noling was indicted in 1992, but prosecutors soon had to drop the charges against him after he passed a polygraph case — and after his co-defendant at the time changed his mind and refused to incriminate him. Just so we are straight, in 1992, there was no physical evidence linking Noling to the crime, he had passed a lie detector test, and witnesses were already turning on the investigator.

Tyrone Noling (Ohio Dept. of Corrections)

But a few years later — under threat from Craig, they now say — a few folks stepped forward to testify against Noling. They placed him at the crime scene and they testified that he had confessed to killing the Hartigs. Noling’s jury deliberated for about day before returning guilty verdicts. Noling was quickly sentenced to death. The state’s website duly notes that Noling arrived at its death row on February 21, 1996. He has maintained his innocence ever since.

There are several legitimate reasons why Noling deserves a new trial, especially in a state with a long history of wrongful capital convictions. There are a lot of flawed capital convictions all over the country — pick a state, any state, where the death penalty is still a priority for prosecutors and you’ll find such a case. But a closer look at this case reveals virtually all of the system’s main flaws at one time and in one place. The only thing missing from the story is racial bias, which likely would have only made things worse. (As of September 30, 2011, there were 148 inmates on Ohio’s death row, 65 of them white males like Noling.)

Read the rest here.