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DNA Evidence Cited in Ohio Clemency

June 27, 2003|From Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Robert A. Taft granted clemency Thursday for the first time, sparing a man who used a new state law allowing DNA testing in death row cases to prove that blood found on his tennis shoes was his own.

Jerome Campbell, whose execution had been scheduled for today, is the first condemned inmate in Ohio to receive clemency in 12 years.

The governor changed the death sentence to life in prison without parole, saying jurors may have recommended a different sentence if the new DNA evidence had been available and they had been told that two jailhouse informants had sought leniency in exchange for their testimony.

He added that his conclusion "does not diminish in any way Mr. Campbell's responsibility for a brutal and senseless murder or the compassion I feel for Henry Turner and his family."

Campbell, now 42, was convicted of aggravated murder for stabbing John Henry Turner, 78, at Turner's Cincinnati apartment in 1988.

David Houze, Turner's grandson, said he was furious at Taft's decision.

"He was judged by his peers. He was found guilty by 12 people," Houze said. "They imposed the death sentence.... They were supposed to carry it out."

Defense lawyers argued that Campbell should be retried because a DNA test he requested from the state showed that blood on his gym shoes, introduced as trial evidence, was his blood, not Turner's.

Based on tests available at the time, prosecutors had told jurors it was unclear whose blood it was. But the defense argued that jurors could have concluded it was the victim's blood, even though the prosecutors did not argue that Campbell was wearing those shoes at the time of the killing.

The courts turned down the request for a new trial, but the governor said the new evidence "does contradict an impression that was left in the minds of some jurors during the trial."

Greg Meyers, director of the public defender's death penalty division, said Campbell deserves a new trial someday, but that shouldn't overshadow the significance of Taft's decision.

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