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Prosecutor drops appeal of man wrongly imprisoned for years

June 22, 2021 GMT

CLEVELAND, O.H. (AP) — An Ohio county prosecutor has dropped an appeal opposing a judge’s ruling that a former death row man was wrongly imprisoned for two decades, but the prosecutor is urging state officials not to compensate the former prisoner.

Joseph D’Ambrosio was released without conditions in 2010 after a judge who determined that prosecutors withheld evidence that could have exonerated D’Ambrosio at his 1989 trial. He had been accused of kidnapping and killing 19-year-old Anthony Klann, who was found dead in a Cleveland park in 1988.

D’Ambrosio is now entitled to receive compensation from the state’s wrongful imprisonment fund, Cleveland.com reported. The fund is part of a 2019 change in the law that has allowed people freed from prison because of police or prosecutorial misconduct to be eligible for compensation for serving prison time.

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Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley on Monday said he opposes the payout but agreed to drop the case at the request of Ohio’s Attorney General’s office, which records show is brokering D’Ambrosio’s settlement, the website said.

O’Malley said he does not want the state to compensate D’Ambrosio because he believes witness testimony during the trial showed that D’Ambrosio is guilty. A witness had testified that he saw D’Ambrosio and two other men with Klann before the killing.

“Should people who are not innocent get money?” O’Malley asked, saying that Klann’s father is outraged by the notion that the man accused of killing his son could receive a payout.

County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Russo ruled in 2012 that D’Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted but the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the judge’s decision two years later based on precedent that said the prosecutorial misconduct had to have happened after the person was sentenced instead of during the trial stages.

But in 2019, the state legislature changed the statute so that anyone who was freed because of misconduct would be permitted to declare wrongful imprisonment. People denied this status are allowed to apply again under the new amendment.

Last year, D’Ambrosio filed a new request and he was declared wrongfully imprisoned by Russo. The prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling, the website reported.

O’Malley said that the new law is unconstitutional because it allows people to resubmit their cases again after it has been denied the first time.

D’Ambrosio’s attorney, Terry Gilbert, said that O’Malley’s office agreed to dismiss the appeal in return for the case to be unsealed so O’Malley could voice his concerns.

Gilbert said his client is entitled to compensation.

“Joe suffered for so many years because of that prosecutor’s office, starting in 1989,” he said. “He spent over 20 years on death row, because he had to go through an unfair trial as recognized by both federal and state courts. Now the rule of law is that my client is entitled to compensation.”