CLEVELAND — An Ohio man who spent nearly two decades in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit has won a request for a new trial in an effort to clear his name.
Anthony Lemons, 39, has maintained his innocence in the 1994 shooting and has fought to clear his name even after he was released on parole last December after spending 17 years in prison.
Lemons was sentenced to 21 years to life in prison for the shooting death of a Cleveland man over what prosecutors said was a dispute over drug money.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Janet Burnside granted a new trial for Lemons on Monday, noting that prosecutors withheld police reports from the defense during the original 1995 trial, The Plain Dealer reported.
The police reports included “critical information that throws doubt upon the credibility” of the prosecution’s key eyewitness, the judge said.
The eyewitness, for example, described the shoes Lemons was wearing when the shooting took place. Police found that the type of shoe wasn’t even manufactured until well after the shooting.
Kevin Spellacy, one of Lemons’ attorneys, said his client was “ecstatic” about getting a new trial.
“He’s never wavered on his innocence, and looks forward to his day in court,” Spellacy said
He said that Lemons was paroled last December and has been living and working in Cleveland since his release.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said his office is reviewing the case.
“The case presents an unusual set of facts and we will re-examine them in light of Judge Burnside’s findings,” McGinty said in a statement. “This is also a case where the lone eyewitness is dead, the detectives who investigated the murder are retired from the police force and the prosecutors who tried the case have also retired.”
Spellacy said Lemons’ legal team was cautiously optimistic about his chances for a second trial, “because we believed in Anthony and we believed in the evidence, or lack thereof.”