In 1988, Anthony Klann, 19, was brutally murdered in Cleveland, Ohio. One of the men accused of his murder, Joe D’Ambrosio, spent twenty-one years on Ohio’s death row before his conviction was thrown out thanks to the efforts of a Catholic priest who befriended him in prison and believed in his innocence.
The Rev. Neil Kookoothe and a new defense team were able to uncover evidence that had been withheld by county prosecutors at the trial that was favorable to their client which included the following:
- Police statements – Klann could not have been murdered at the place the prosecutor’s only eyewitness to the crime claimed.
- The eyewitness, who allegedly took part in the crime, was given a reduced sentence for testifying against D’Ambrosio and his co-defendant, Keenan.
- The man who led police to the three alleged murderers had a possible motive for murdering Anthony Klann.
In all, a federal judge stated the prosecution failed to provide ten pieces of evidence that could have exonerated D’Ambrosio at his trial.
In 2006, a federal judge threw out D’Ambrosio’s conviction when he ruled that prosecutors withheld evidence that could have led a panel to find him not guilty, although he was not released from prison until 2009.
This same judge barred his re-prosecution in 2010, and then in 2011, all charges against D’Ambrosio were dismissed by a county judge.
On Monday, January 23, 2013, Joe D’Ambrosio’s 23-year old case finally came to an end when the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the state of Ohio’s appeal of the ruling that barred a retrial of D’Ambrosio for the murder of Anthony Klann.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, D’Ambrosio is the 140th former death row inmate to be exonerated since 1973 and the sixth from Ohio.
The exoneration of Joe D’Ambrosio shows how essential it is to have an experienced, knowledgeable defense team working tirelessly on your behalf to prove your innocence when charged with any serious crime.