Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Court: Don't Get Hung Up on the Details, "Worrisome"...Kill Him Anyway

Cleveland.com reported last week on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the death penalty in the case of Tyrone Noling, (pic.) 

According to the Court's decision, there are some real concerns about whether Mr. Noling did the deed.  Regardless the Court says under existing law there is no way to stop this freight train....scary.  This is reporter Andrea Simakis' summary of the decision and implications for Noling:

Though two federal judges described his case as "worrisome" and questioned whether the state would be killing an innocent man, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to let Tyrone Noling's 1996 death sentence stand.

The ruling by the Cincinnati-based court Wednesday also bars Noling from presenting new evidence that others might have committed the double murder that put him on Ohio's death row.

Kelly Schneider, Noling's longtime attorney, called the decision "heartbreaking."

"Basically, they see problems in Tyrone's case but [write that] their hands are tied by the rules that govern their ability to grant relief," Schneider said. "Literally, we've got a man I believe to be innocent who's just a few steps away from death and [they say] their hands are tied. It's horrifying."

Noling was sentenced to death six years after the bodies of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig were found dead of gunshot wounds on the floor of their kitchen in Portage County's Atwater Township.

He was largely convicted on the word of three men, one of whom admitted during the trial that he'd been coerced by prosecutors and police to implicate Noling to save his own skin. The other two men also later recanted, saying they lied on the stand to avoid a death sentence.

Earlier this year, another man claimed that his foster brother, Daniel Wilson, admitted to killing the Hartigs. Wilson was executed for an unrelated murder in 2009.

Those questions about Noling's guilt plagued at least two members of the three-judge panel.

Citing the "worrisome scenario" of possible witness coercion, "absolutely no physical evidence linking Noling to the murders" and the existence of "other viable suspects that the prosecutor chose not to investigate or did not know of at the time," the panel said nonetheless that the lower courts had not acted unreasonably.

A legal expert said the judges had to abide by a sweeping antiterrorism law passed after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that severely restricts the ability of federal courts to overturn state court decisions.

Federal judges who look at a state case and think "the state got it absolutely, totally wrong cannot reverse that case unless they find that . . . the state was unreasonable in being wrong," said Michael Benza, visiting associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

"It really has created this bizarre situation, as in the Noling case, where you have a court saying, 'this conviction or this sentence is, in fact, unconstitutional in our opinion, but we are not authorized to do anything about it.' "

Though Noling has appeals pending in state court, his federal appeals are all but exhausted. His defense team will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case, but the odds are long.   Of 10,000 to 20,000 petitions each year, the nation's most powerful jurists agree to hear "like 75," said Benza.


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