January 8: The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a capital case that touches upon virtually every failing you ever see in a capital case. There is no physical evidence against Tyrone Noling, convicted of murdering an elderly man and woman in their Ohio home in 1990. All of the primary witnesses against him have recanted their testimony, and there are allegations of coercive interrogation tactics on the part of the police. Meanwhile, prosecutors withheld evidence at trial. And yet today they continue to refuse to allow DNA testing of a cigarette butt found at the scene of the crime that might exonerate the defendant. Noling's execution has been stayed. His lawyers say he deserves a new trial.
Today's Akron Beacon Journal publishes the editorial, "Growing doubt."
On Tuesday, the Ohio Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Tyrone Noling, a resident of death row, found guilty in 1996 of murdering an elderly Atwater Township couple. Noling and his attorney want the justices to grant DNA testing of the crime scene, in particular, a cigarette butt found on the driveway. The court will weigh rather narrow questions of interpretation and jurisdiction. What should concern Ohioans more broadly is the mounting information that casts doubt on the Noling conviction.
Actually, doubt has been warranted from the beginning. Noling and three other young men did conducted thefts from cars and two home robberies in April 1990. The killing of Cora and Bearnhardt Hartig, shot at their kitchen table? The Portage County sheriff investigated, and concluded about Noling and friends: “It just didn’t fit.”
No physical evidence has been found linking Noling to the crime scene. Noling had picked up a .25 caliber handgun, the kind of weapon used in the killing. But markings on the bullets excluded his gun. Little at the scene resembled the robberies involving Noling in Alliance.
What changed after the sheriff’s assessment? The prosecutor’s office put an investigator on the trail. He eventually gained confessions from the three friends, pointing the finger at Noling. Their testimony proved persuasive enough at trial, even though one recanted on the witness stand. The others recanted later, sharing their descriptions of the coercion, threats and other methods of manipulation employed by the investigator.
Ideally, in view of the growing and substantial doubt, Tyrone Noling would receive a new trial. A jury would weigh the full array of evidence. For now, he deserves the requested DNA testing. Hard to believe the prosecution fails to see the value in answering the question about Daniel Wilson. In death penalty cases, the state must take great care in ensuring the correct outcome. It doesn’t want to be in the position of committing its own murder, of executing the wrong man.
WAKR-AM posts, "Portage Death Row Inmate Gets Supreme Court Review."
A Portage County death row inmate is getting an Ohio Supreme Court review that he hopes will set him free.
Tyrone Noling wants DNA re-testing of evidence - a cigarette butt - that could point instead to a now-executed prisoner, in the shooting deaths of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig, both 81, at their home in in Atwater in 1990.
Noling tried to get the testing under a new law passed in 2010, but was denied any new motions since earlier calls for retesting were denied. Noling is current serving his sentence at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution's Death Row.
It's that denial which is being reviewed by Ohio's top court on Tuesday.
"Ohio’s top court to hear Alliance man’s case," by Shane Hoover for the Canton Repository.
The Ohio Supreme Court has issued a summary of the issues involved, "Does 2010 Law Require Court to Consider New Request for Postconviction DNA Testing Despite Denial of Earlier Request?"