After spending 21 years on death row in Ohio, 62-year old Michael Keenan is now a free man after a judge dismissed the 1988 murder charge against him.
Keenan had been convicted of stabbing a man to death whose body was found in a park in Cleveland. A Common Pleas judge in Cuyahoga County dismissed the charge of aggravated murder against Keenan after deciding that evidence that would have proven his innocence had been kept from his trial attorneys.
At the proceeding last week, Judge John Russo found that the withheld evidence “would have strengthened and been beneficial” to Keenan’s case. Judge Russo further determined that the failure of the state in disclosing the evidence had caused harm that “cannot be resolved by a new trial.”
The prosecution disagrees with the court’s decision and plans to appeal. Richard Bell was the assistant prosecutor in these proceedings and contends that Keenan could have received a fair trial. “We were prepared to prove for the third time that Keenan and his employees murdered Tony Klann,” said Bell.
Keenan was twice-convicted of killing 19-year old Tony Klann. The conviction in the first trial was overturned after it was reviewed by the Ohio Supreme Court and prosecutorial misconduct was determined. However, at his second trial in 1994 he was once again convicted of murdering Klann.
Joe D’Ambrosio was another man who was convicted of killing Klann. However, after a Catholic priest befriended D’Ambrosio, information was brought forward that could have been used to clear both D’Ambrosio and Keenan, including police statements concluding that Klann could not have been murdered where witness Espinoza claimed the killing had occurred.
Espinoza pled guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter and testified against Keenan and D’Ambrosio. He served twelve years in jail and was released in 2001 and has since passed away.
Like Keenan, D’Ambrosio has always claimed his innocence in the case. He was freed in 2010 when a judge determined that evidence that may have exonerated him was withheld from his trial attorneys. Keenan continued with his appeal.
Keenan is considering suing the state for wrongful imprisonment. As we know, this is often the only recourse for many exonerees as they otherwise have no way to support themselves financially upon release.