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Sunday, December 28, 2014
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Published: Friday, 12/28/2001

Oops, and then some

Perhaps late beats not at all, but, after spending seven months in jail and being convicted on felony drug charges of which he was innocent, Chicagoan Edward L. Turner has to be wondering if Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Bowman had tongue-in-cheek when he told him, “Now you know the system works.”

Mr. Turner was to face the judge's sentence, up to 40 years in prison, tantamount to life for a 58-year-old man. A jury convicted him last month of the crimes he hadn't committed. He felt nothing if not done in.

Mr. Turner and Harry J. Genous, who played basketball in a night-time league in Chicago Mr. Turner coached, were headed for Akron when police stopped them. Mr. Turner was tagging along for the chance to visit a friend.

The Ohio Highway Patrol asked permission to search the vehicle Mr. Genous had rented. Mr. Genous gave it. In the trunk troopers found a shoebox filled with cocaine.

A trooper's camera not only recorded the search visually but also taped the discussion between Mr. Turner and the driver about the contents of the shoebox, portions of which were inaudible thanks to traffic noise. On analysis, the chat between the two indicated Mr. Turner had no idea he was riding in a car carrying drugs.

The problem was the Chicago man was kept in jail and convicted before the results of the tape analysis were available, a scenario worthy of Alice in Wonderland. He had a court-appointed lawyer and couldn't make bail, while Mr. Genous' family hired him a lawyer and posted $100,000 bond. At some point he passed a polygraph test.

Analysis of the sound on the videotape, appears to have been crucial in vindicating him.

The system worked, to be sure, but lazily. That analysis should have been part of the investigation and available within days of Mr. Turner's arrest. Investigative and/or prosecutorial sloppiness cost an innocent man seven months of his life. Had the job been done right, Mr. Turner would not have been jailed since May. And he would never have been convicted.

This case should embarrass police, prosecutors, judges, and even jurors conditioned to believe that an innocent person wouldn't be in the dock. An example that the system works? There's a hint of that. The stronger suggestion is that the case is a roadmap showing the procedures required by those whose work is to effect justice. Everyone will be watching.



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