SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

April 19, 2013

Innocence Tour seeks justice

Capital punishment

Ex-inmates seeking justice

Innocent men on Death Row, they say

By JoAnne Viviano THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Chris Russell / COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Dale Johnston, center, speaks to law students about capital punishment.  Johnston, Derrick Jamison, left, and Joe D’Ambrosio are former Death Row inmates wrongly convicted of murder.

Derrick Jamison has moved to Louisiana since his 2005 release from Ohio’s Death Row. But the former Cincinnati resident said he is compelled to return by memories of the men he saw put to death during the 20 years he spent behind bars after being wrongly convicted.

“I watched so many of my friends get murdered. It still haunts me to this day,” he told a group gathered yesterday at Capital University Law School. “They grew up to be strong, healthy young men taken up out of their cells and murdered, strapped down on a gurney … and poison shot into their blood.

“That’s why we do what we do. That’s why we got to speak out … I’m coming back to fight for my people, the guys I left behind on Death Row.”

Jamison, 52; Dale Johnston, 79, of the Grove City area; and Joe D’Ambrosio, 51, of North Olmstead, are part of a statewide “Innocence Tour” sponsored by Ohioans to Stop Executions and Witness to Innocence.

Jamison was convicted in the 1984 death of Cincinnati bartender Gary Mitchell.

Johnston was exonerated in 1990 after serving seven years in the dismemberment slayings of his stepdaughter, Annette Cooper, and her friend Todd Schultz in Hocking County. D’Ambrosio was imprisoned nearly 23 years in the 1988 murder of 19-year-old Anthony Klann of Cleveland.

  • All three men said investigators improperly withheld witnesses or other evidence that could have exonerated them or implicated others in the crimes.

“Hopefully, we can open up some eyes and minds to what is going on in this state because somebody’s got to do something,” D’Ambrosio said. “They’re murdering people in your name. And they’re innocent.”

The men are among six Ohio Death Row inmates who were released after taking an average of 17 years to prove they were wrongfully convicted, said Kevin Werner, the executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions. Nationwide, 142 Death Row inmates have been released. It took an average of 9.5 years to prove their cases.

  • Werner urged judicial and legislative leaders to review capital-punishment cases for evidence of ineffective defense attorneys, withheld evidence and other signs of improper convictions.

“I think they ought to review every single individual case on Death Row and look for reasons to say, ‘Maybe we made a mistake’ instead of ‘Let’s just maintain the status quo, uphold convictions, move on,’” he said.

  • Ohio has executed 50 people since it resumed the practice in 1999.

D’Ambrosio cautioned law students who attended yesterday’s event to avoid corruption within the system.

“Be the honorable one, be the upfront one, even if you’re going against the grain of everybody else,” he said. “Be true to yourself, because you’re the only one that counts.

“If you’re true and you’re true to the law, stuff like this won’t happen.”

jviviano@dispatch.com

(I have lived in OHIO for 19 years now and since the year of arriving,  I have been cutting out clippings from the newspaper of cases which I have found extremely disturbing.  All kinds of stuff from people backed into corners regarding  worker’s compensation and the flagrant manner in which they were treated.  Wouldn’t have happened in California.  Who knows how things may have changed by now.    Guess I’ll never learn as I continue to think the law should be fair and just. 

I have referenced the penal system in operation in Ohio too frequently.  These things should not be ignored and someone should care.  Thank God these men do,   and have the courage to do what’s right.    Can’t help wondering if it was me in there and nobody cared, how unimaginable that would be.   Can’t get my head around it.   Just saying. .   .   .     Jan)

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