We are very pleased that William T. Montgomery is no longer on Ohio’s death row: his death sentence has been commuted to one of life without the possibility of parole. Like Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Montgomery claims he has been wrongly convicted; away from death row he will continue to pursue a “new and fair” trial.
The ripples from wrongful convictions can extend far beyond those wrongly incarcerated or executed: sometimes “when someone is wrongfully convicted, there is a guilty person on the street committing more crimes”. Frank Baumgartner estimates that of the approximately 40,000 wrongful convictions every year in the USA, perhaps a quarter involves the actual perpetrator remaining at large. Some must be murderers who may kill again.
In Jeff’s case there were several suspects who were not investigated and about whom the prosecution withheld evidence (see here and here and here). A further crime or crimes could conceivably have been prevented if the real murderer of Amber Garrett had been identified, convicted and sentenced.
Baumgartner and his wife, Jennifer Thompson, are campaigning to raise public awareness about this aspect of wrongful convictions. They want people to understand that:
“[P]reventing wrongful convictions is not just a way of stopping individual injustices: it’s a way of fighting crime.”
We wish them success with their campaign. And we hope the public demands that Jeff should have a new trial.