Charge Dismissed Against Ohioan Once on Death Row


Sept. 6th 2012

A man who spent more than 21 years on death row is free after a judge dismissed the murder charge against him in the 1988 stabbing death of a man found dead in a brook in a Cleveland park.

A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge on Thursday dismissed the charge of aggravated murder against Michael Keenan, 62, after determining evidence that could have exonerated him was withheld from his trial attorneys.

Judge John Russo said the evidence withheld by prosecutors “would have strengthened and been beneficial” to Keenan’s case and that the harm done to him by the state’s failure to disclose the evidence “cannot be resolved by a new trial,” according to a transcript from Thursday’s hearing.

Richard Bell, the assistant prosecutor who handled the latest proceedings in the case, said in a statement Thursday that the prosecution disagrees with the court’s decision and will appeal. Bell said Keenan could have received a fair trial.

“We were prepared to prove for the third time that Keenan and his employees murdered Tony Klann,” said Bell, chief of the criminal investigations division.

Keenan’s attorney, John Hildebrand, said his client was “obviously thrilled” with the judge’s ruling.

“It’s unfortunate that he had to spend that time on death row,” Hildebrand said. “A lot of money was spent to keep him there because prosecutors concealed evidence.”

Keenan was convicted twice of killing Tony Klann, 19, in a Cleveland park. His first conviction was overturned after the Ohio Supreme Court determined prosecutorial misconduct, but he was convicted again in 1994, Hildebrand said.

Another man, Joe D’Ambrosio, also had been convicted of murdering Klann, but a Catholic priest who had befriended D’Ambrosio found evidence that could have helped both men at trial. The withheld evidence included police statements concluding that Klann could not have been murdered where prosecution witness Edward Espinoza, claimed the killing occurred, Hildebrand said.

Espinoza, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the case and testified against Keenan and D’Ambrosio, was released in 2001 after serving 12 years in prison. He has since died.

D’Ambrosio, who has always said he is innocent, was freed in 2010 by a judge who determined evidence that could have exonerated D’Ambrosio was withheld from his trial attorneys. Keenan continued his appeal, and a federal judge in April ruled that Keenan must be retried within 180 days or the verdict set aside.

Hildebrand said Thursday that a proposed plea deal had been discussed with prosecutors as late as Wednesday. It would have required Keenan to plead guilty to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, but would have meant he would be free immediately on probation. But Keenan, who continues to maintain his innocence, decided not to do that, Hildebrand said.
He said Keenan is considering suing the state for wrongful imprisonment.

Protest against the Attorney General of Nevada’s Office

Tonja Brown:
We protested against the Attorney General’s Office for withholding evidence in cases.
The actual banner is 4′ x 130′.

Press release about the action:

I will be joining Ty Robben along with others for a protest at the Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday at noon. Due to the investigative reporting by Joe Hart and Geoff Dornan regarding the computer glitch that has caused inmates to have false felony charges placed in their files, the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice has called for an examination into computer glitch.

What the Advisory Commission does not know is how the Attorney General’s Office is, in part, responsible for the denials in at least one former inmate, Nolan Klein’s Parole and a Pardon, because, their office withheld exculpatory evidence from Mr. Klein and the federal court in the 2005 case of Klein v Helling. These Brady violations by the Attorney General’s Office and being compounded by the computer glitch resulted in Mr. Klein’s Paroles, a Pardon, his freedom and his fife.

I anxiously await the results from the Examination that was order by Assemblyman Horne on March 7, 2012. On April 17, 2012 I will turn over the exculpatory evidence and show the Commission the irreparable harm this has caused Mr. Klein and his family.

The Brady violations by the Attorney General’s Office has placed the intregity of the Attorney General’s Office in question. I have asked the Governor to contact the the United States Justice Department to investigation the Atttorney General’s Office for civil rights violations.

Tonja Brown

Read it in the Nevada Appeal (subscription is needed)…

See further: New Blog about State employees

Demonstration, New Website for Nolan Klein

Last Friday (21 August), a group of Advocates for the Innocent gathered and demonstrated at the Federal Court House, Reno, NV. Their goal: to expose Ron Rachow and the Washoe County Dick Gammick and the DA’s administration of the last 21 years, who withheld evidence in the case of Nolan Klein (and who knows of more innocent people?).

The demonstration was organized in support of Tonja Brown and her brother Nolan Klein, who is gravely ill, and who has been in prison for the last 21 years in a wrongful conviction due to the withholding of evidence by Ron Rachow.

A new website has also been launched to inform the public about this case:

The following link contains the documents submitted to the Advisory Commission requesting a case study to be conducted on Wrongful convictions through eyewitness testimony and tainted photo line ups. The information in the link shows the discrepancies between Nolan Klein and the prime suspect that was withheld from the defense by Ron Rachow.

This is the link to the exhibits (PDF opens).

Tonja Brown submitted to the Advisory Commission a proposed bill dealing with DNA evidence and wrongful convictions. She requested the Commission recommend the bill to the 2009 Legislature. She said the bill entitled an inmate to have DNA testing at his own expense.

She said her other item of discussion, Agenda Item VI-D, was eyewitness identification. She provided a large packet of exhibit material for the Commission. She asked the Commissioners to look at the photo lineup included in her materials.

Ms. Brown read further statements from her exhibits.
Chair Hardesty said the Commission had Ms. Brown’s material and he asked her to make a policy issue. Ms. Brown recommended the Commission needed to study misidentification and recommend to the Legislature they do a case study.