Michael Keenan, who had spent the past twenty-four years waiting to be executed, was freed Thursday after an Ohio judge dismissed the murder charge against him. Keenan and John D’Ambrosio, who was freed in 2009, were convicted of killing Tony Klann in 1988. The two had long maintained their innocence of the charges against them, but were sentenced to die until a Catholic priest discovered that a prosecutor had withheld critical evidence pointing to Keenan and D’Ambrosio’s innocence:
A Catholic priest who befriended D’Ambrosio in prison and was convinced of his innocence worked with lawyers to uncover evidence favorable to both defendants that had been withheld by county prosecutors at trial.
That evidence included police statements that concluded Klann could not have been killed at Doan Brook, as the prosecutors’ only eyewitness to the killing claimed.
Eddie Espinoza, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with Klann’s death and was given a reduced sentence, claimed that Keenan slit Klann’s throat and D’Ambrosio stabbed him in the chest.
The withheld evidence also included information that the man who led police to Keenan, D’Ambrosio and Espinoza, had a possible motive for killing Klann.
This case is emblematic of broader problems with the American death penalty — 101 people between 1989 and 2012 were slated to be killed by their government before exonerating evidence came to light well into their prison terms.
(Hat tip: Ari Kohen.)