The Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals yesterday threw out the conviction of an East Toledo man accused in the 2004 beating death of his girlfriend.
A three-judge panel said Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Cook couldn t conclude from trial testimony that the purported beating that Elmore Watson, Jr., inflicted on Debra Stout caused her death hours later in a Northwood motel room.
The court reversed the decision of Judge Cook from June, 2005, that Watson was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Watson, 53, who had his case decided by Judge Cook in lieu of a jury, is serving a four-year sentence at the North Central Correctional Institution near Cleveland.
Ms. Stout, 49, was found dead March, 2, 2004, in the motel room, a day after witnesses said she was beaten by the defendant in an alley in the 900 block of Oak Street.
An autopsy showed the victim, who was an alcoholic and drug user, died from blunt trauma to her spleen, causing it to rupture and bleed into her abdomen. She also suffered bruises on her back, neck, and arm.
The opinion, written by Judge Arlene Singer, said that the testimony of the sole witness who said she saw Watson punch Ms. Stout about 15 times outside the Switch Inn Bar didn t sufficiently show that the beating was enough to cause the blunt impact that resulted in Ms. Stout s death.
Judge Singer was joined in the decision by judges Mark Pietrykowski and William Skow.
Watson s trial attorney, Lorin Zaner, said the appellate court vindicated his client in the woman s death.
Hopefully he will be released right away. The court of appeals absolutely did the right thing. They looked at the lack of evidence and how it couldn t have been tied into causing her death, he said.