Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s most recent motion sent to the Ohio Supreme Court does not focus on Jeff’s innocence, but on whether his trial court had jurisdiction to try him. Jeff maintains his innocence, but the jurisdiction motion must also be filed. The law is clear about the issue contained in the motion: Jeff should not have been tried for murder by Ohio. The state’s case postulated that Amber Garrett was murdered in Indiana; legal precedent has established that the murder trial should therefore have been in that state, and not in Ohio.
This is not Jeff’s preferred route to retrial – he would like a court to accept his claim of innocence directly and grant him a retrial on that basis. However, US law appears to have no problem with sending an innocent man to die. As Emily Bazelon explains,
“19 years of Supreme Court decisions based on the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act have fundamentally narrowed the scope of habeas review [the appeals process], from a fight over the merits of a claim of innocence or fairness to one over narrow process issues”.
Justice Sotomayor, a US Supreme Court judge, agrees:
“We are now in a place where a clearly constitutional wrong or one that’s clear enough will still be upheld because AEDPA tells us if it’s not ‘unreasonably’ wrong, it’s OK. Try explaining that to someone in jail or try explaining that to the founding fathers who might have had a very different view of what justice is about.”
And in Jeff’s case one can sense the uneasiness of a federal judge, Judge Karen Moore, at being unable to probe more deeply into the impact of extensive prosecutor misconduct:
“I concur in the judgment that habeas corpus relief is unavailable to petitioner under the stringent AEDPA standards that currently apply.”
Until this legal problem is fixed, Jeff needs to pursue any legal route that may eventually allow him to clear his name and walk free. The end must justify the means.