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A visiting Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge has denied a motion for a new trial for convicted murderer Stoney Thompson, saying that the evidence inadvertently withheld from the defense during his 2008 trial would not have changed the outcome of the case.
Judge Steve Yarbrough issued the 1 1/2-page ruling, opening the door for an appeal that has already been filed in the 6th District Court of Appeals to proceed.
Thompson, 29, was sentenced to three life sentences without parole after being found guilty by a jury of three counts of aggravated murder. He and his brother, Goldy Thompson, 32, were each charged with the deaths of three men found inside a house at 410 Ohio St. on Oct. 24, 2006.
Goldy Thompson was found not guilty in a separate trial.
"When viewed in the totality in the case against Stoney Thompson, the evidence in dispute was inconsequential," said Assistant County Prosecutor Jevne Meader, one of the trial prosecutors in the case. "The evidence which was unintentionally withheld by the state was nothing more than additional impeachment evidence, which the state feels has absolutely no impact on the case."
In his motion for a new trial filed in August, 2008, attorney Drew Griffith claimed that he was not provided with information about conflicting statements made by one of the state's witnesses, John Kuch. Mr. Griffith argued that without recorded copies of each of the witness' statements to police, he was not able to properly question Kuch about "significant inconsistencies" in what he said during interviews with police and what he said in court.
Judge Yarbrough disagreed, saying that "the court is not persuaded that if the statements of Mr. Kuch had been disclosed to the defendant that there is a strong probability that it would change the result." The ruling admitted "some probability" that the jury could have reached a different verdict but said the evidence would have to be deemed material and would have likely changed the outcome for a new trial to be granted.
"Having concluded that the outcome would not have changed and that the suppressed evidence was not material, the defendant's motion for a new trial fails," the judge wrote.
Mr. Griffith said he was disappointed, saying there lingers a question of whether his client was given a "full and fair trial."
"It was incredibly important from our perspective," he said yesterday of the evidence. "We felt it was an oversight that would have allowed us to present a more full defense."
The evidence, Mr. Griffith noted, was available during Goldy Thompson's trial.
Assistant County Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson, who also prosecuted the case, said that the cases against each of the brothers were different. He added that comparing the two cases was a "superficial argument."
"To make the argument that one was found guilty, one was not, totally ignores the evidence in the case," he said.
The decision was released on the last day of a deadline imposed by the Court of Appeals.
A notice of appeal was filed on Stoney Thompson's behalf with the appellate court in July, 2008, although no appeal had been filed pending Judge Yarbrough's decision.
In an order filed July 6, the Court of Appeals granted appellate attorney Deborah Rump additional time to file the appeal pending the outcome of the motion, adding, "if no ruling has been made on the motion at the end of this extended remand period, this court will reinstate this appeal to its docket and proceed with the merits of this appeal, thereby divesting the trial court of the jurisdiction to hear the pending motion for a new trial."
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