Ohio prosecutor seeks to deny DNA testing for man facing execution
In criminal cases, prosecutors are supposed to turn over favorable evidence to the defense. But Portage County Prosecutor Vic Vigluicci has a different idea of what he actually needs to hand over, and it’s now up to the Ohio Supreme Court to decide whether he’s violating the rules of evidence.
How the court rules may end up determining whether Tyrone Noling gets a new trial. Noling, who’s been on Ohio’s Death Row since the early 90’s, was convicted of killing Cora and Bearnhardt Hartig, both 81, in a robbery attempt. Noling claims he is innocent, and that DNA testing will exonerate him.
Last year Noling got access to the state’s DNA report on a cigarette butt found at the scene of the crime. But Vigluicci argues that the says the one-page summary of the report from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is all that he has to provide.
Attorney Brian Howe, who represents Noling, disagrees, and said other prosecutors have handed over complete DNA reports, and not just summaries. And there is at least one other case, where an innocent man would still be locked up if the defense hadn’t gotten all the material that was asked for.
That was the case of Clarence Elkins, who was exonerated based on DNA evidence for the murder of his mother-in-law after spending eight years in prison. Another man was later arrested and convicted of that crime.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, “Noling’s attorneys are asking the high court for access to the complete results of DNA testing already done, for shell casings to be run through a federal database to see if the murder weapon was used in any other crimes, and for a reputable lab to do DNA testing using the latest technology for shell casings and ring boxes from the crime scene.”
Vigluicci is opposed to all of this, arguing that it’s a delaying tactic and the case needs to end at some point. He also claims the one page summary is all he’s required to turn over according to the law.
But there are enormous concerns with this case. No fingerprints or other physical evidence existed proving Noling was at the scene of the crime. He was convicted because his co-defendants testified against him. Those co-defendants have since recanted, and the Ohio Innocence Project has taken on Noling’s case.
The possibility that an innocent man could be executed should concern everyone, especially prosecutors who are tasked with ensuring justice. Yet Vigluicci seems determined to execute Noling, despite a very real possibility he is innocent.