CLEVELAND, Ohio — An appeals court granted a new trial for two men who spent the last 14 years in prison for the shooting of two people and the attempted shooting of a Cleveland police officer.
The unanimous decision issued Thursday by the 8th District Court of Appeals found that Cleveland police and Cuyahoga County prosecutors denied Kenny Phillips and Michael Sutton a fair trial by failing to tell the men’s defense attorneys that officers gave conflicting statements about the shootings, and not calling them testify at trial.
A jury convicted the men, who were 17 years old at the time of the shootings, of multiple charges, including attempted murder of a police officer. A judge sentenced Phillips to 61 years in prison, and Sutton, who was the driver, to more than 40 years in prison.
Prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Phillips or Sutton to the crime, meaning the entire case rested on the testimony of officers Daniel Lentz and Michael Keane, who said they saw the drive-by shooter fire from a car that included Phillips and Sutton. Lentz also said that Phillips and another man fired several shots at him during a subsequent foot chase, and Keane confirmed he heard the shots.
Jurors never heard from officers John Lundy and Gregory Jones, who said in affidavits filed in recent years as part of the men’s appeals that they too were at the shooting scene and said Lentz and Keane were not where they said they were when the initial shots were fired. Lundy and Jones also said they never heard any shots fired as Lentz and Keane chased down the fleeing men.
The 8th District, in an opinion written by Judge Anita Laster Mays and joined by judges Larry Jones and Michelle Sheehan, ruled that the state knew about Lundy’s and Jones’ conflicting testimony and failed to disclose it, therefore violating the defendants’ rights to a fair trial. Read more –>