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    Wrongfully convicted man who spent 20 years on Ohio's death row files lawsuit

    By Kevin Grasha, Cincinnati Enquirer,

    30 days ago

    A man who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1985 and spent 20 years on Ohio’s death row before being exonerated is now seeking acknowledgment from the state for the suffering he endured.

    Derrick Jamison has filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court seeking a formal declaration that he was wrongfully imprisoned. If that declaration is made, under state law, Jamison can then seek compensation for the years he spent on death row.

    “I wasn’t in jail. I was in hell,” Jamison, now 63, told The Enquirer in an interview.

    During his 20 years on death row, Jamison said he was scheduled to be executed six times before the governor intervened. One time, he said, a reprieve came 90 minutes before his scheduled execution.

    Both his father and his mother died while he was in prison, as did several other relatives. Jamison was overcome with emotion as he described the day he was told his mother died.

    "That was one of the worst days of my life," Jamison said. "They can’t pay me enough. I lost too much."

    If a determination is made that Jamison was wrongfully imprisoned, he could be eligible to receive nearly $1.3 million from the state for the 20 years he spent in prison.

    Evidence not turned over at trial

    Jamison was released from prison in 2005, five years after a federal judge threw out the conviction. The judge found that prosecutors had violated Jamison’s constitutional rights by not turning over evidence that cast doubt on the case against him. Prosecutors appealed, but a federal appeals court affirmed the judge’s ruling in 2002. The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office ultimately dismissed the charges in 2005.

    Jamison was 24 years old in October 1985 when he was found guilty of killing a bartender the previous year at a West End bar during a robbery.

    The evidence against him included testimony from a man who pleaded guilty in the case, Charles Howell, as well as several other witnesses. Jamison admitted being involved in other robberies around the same time, according to court documents, but said he wasn't involved in the bar robbery.

    The federal judge who threw out the conviction in 2000 described the prosecution’s case at trial as “relatively weak,” saying “the collective effect of the suppressed evidence in this case undermines our confidence in (the) conviction.”

    Among the evidence not turned over to Jamison's attorneys were reports showing that an eyewitness identified two suspects who were not Jamison or Howell.

    Howell, who in exchange for testifying was not tried for murder, told the jury that Jamison kicked the bartender in the head multiple times while the bartender “begged for mercy.” But Jamison’s attorneys didn’t receive police reports that contradicted Howell’s testimony and showed Howell had told police he didn't see the killing.

    Jamison's attorneys also didn’t receive reports describing how police had investigated another man who matched eyewitness descriptions, including that the man wore a distinctive straw hat. That man was wearing a straw hat when he was arrested in another robbery.

    Prosecutors have previously said that Cincinnati police didn't turn over the reports to them.

    A spokesman for the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit.

    Incompetence or intentional misconduct?

    An attorney for Jamison, Jacqueline Greene, said evidence being withheld is a problem across the state and across the country. It’s difficult to know, she said, whether incompetence or intentional misconduct is the reason.

    “But at the end of the day, it all comes down to a question of why there isn’t a culture that demands that every piece of evidence – in particular, exculpatory evidence – is turned over every time," Greene said, "and that there are steps in place to ensure that occurs."

    Jamison now works as an advocate for death-row exonerees and is seeking to end the death penalty in Ohio.

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