"Execution at a higher standard," is the Beacon Journal editorial written by Michael Douglas, the paper's editorial page editor.
In June 2011, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati said no to Tyrone Noling. The resident of death row had asked the court to allow DNA testing driven by new evidence in a case that dates to 1990, a double murder, Cora and Bearnhardt Hartig killed in their house in Atwater Township.
Judge Boyce Martin explained that according to the law, there wasn’t room for granting the request. The ruling affirmed the district court. Yet, in doing so, it proceeded to take a revealing detour — pausing “for a moment to highlight our concern about Noling’s death sentence in light of questions raised regarding his prosecution.”
Martin devoted a passage to the doubts that hover, and increasingly so, about whether Noling killed the Hartigs. The judge reminded that Noling was not indicted until five years after the crime “when a new local prosecutor took office.” He added that the accusers have recanted their stories and “now claim they only identified Noling as the murderer … because they were threatened by the prosecutor.”
Know, as the judge emphasized, that “there is absolutely no physical evidence linking Noling to the murders, and there are other viable suspects that the prosecutor chose not to investigate or did not know of at the time.” Finally, Martin noted that “given the serious questions that have been raised regarding Noling’s prosecution, we wonder whether the decision to end his life should not be tested by a higher standard.”
All of this makes obvious the value of the DNA analysis, and it’s just what lawmakers had in mind when they acted. It also suggests that higher standard, the case against Tyrone Noling having frayed for years, an execution far from fitting. As Judge Martin reminded: “As long as our justice system depends on men and women to make decisions, it will invariably make mistakes.”
The challenge is to correct them before it is too late.
The Legally Speaking Ohio blog has additional, in-depth coverage, "What’s On Their Minds: How Many DNA Tests Can A Prisoner Get? State v. Tyrone Noling." It's written by Marianna Brown Bettman.
On January 8, 2013, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral argument in State v. Tyrone Noling. There are two issues in this case. The substantive issue is whether an application for post conviction DNA testing filed under an earlier statute bars a trial court from reviewing a later DNA testing application filed under a new statute with more liberal acceptance criteria. Read the oral argument preview of this part of the case here.
The second issue, on which the Court requested supplemental briefing after accepting the case, is whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear this case. Under R.C. 2953.73, a trial court’s rejection of an application for DNA testing filed by a person who has been sentenced to death must be appealed directly to the Ohio Supreme Court. That is what Noling did in this case. But under State v. Davis, 131 Ohio St.3d 1 (2011) the Supreme Court held that courts of appeals have jurisdiction to hear the appeal of a trial court’s denial of a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence in a case in which a death penalty has been imposed. Read the oral argument preview of this part of the case here.
Earlier coverage of Tryone Noling's case begins at the link.