No reasonable fact finder would have found him guilty

At long last a court has taken seriously Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s claim that his trial was unfair!* The United States Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit has sent Jeff’s case back to the district court. The focus of the district court’s deliberation will be the State’s suppression of material in the original police file and its inaccurate statements misrepresenting hair analysis.

The Sixth Circuit Court ruling notes that the evidence suppressed or distorted by the State was impeaching. And the majority judges’ statement outlines the extent to which the State’s deception harmed Jeff at his trial:
“[C]onsidering the voluminous evidence casting considerable doubt on the credibility of Amber Garrett’s mother and brother and suggesting that they were implicated in her death, as well as the newly discovered scientific inaccuracies in the testimony regarding the hair analysis, Wogenstahl has made a prima facie showing that he can establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty.”

One of the three Sixth Circuit judges dissented without fuller discussion.

Nonetheless, nearly 24 years after his trial, Jeff has finally heard a court declare “no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty.” And for the time being that is enough. Now is a moment to savor.

*See In Re: Jeffrey Wogenstahl. 18-3287. On Motion to Authorize the Filing of a Second or Successive Application for Habeas Corpus. No. 1:17-cv-00298—Thomas M. Rose, District Judge. United States Court of Appeal for the Sixth Circuit. September 4, 2018.
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Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Ohio, USA, wrongful conviction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Amber Garrett: Sold for Fifteen Hundred Dollars?

The prosecutors at Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s trial suppressed reports suggesting that Amber Garrett’s mother, Peggy, sold Amber for fifteen hundred dollars to pay off drug debts.[i]

Peggy Garrett’s drug selling and use were known to Jeff’s prosecutors, but they failed to pass this information on to the defense. Prosecutors withheld Indiana police reports showing that in 1982 Peggy had been convicted of selling 5 pills of Methaqualone on one occasion and 6 tablets of LSD on another.[ii] The reports impeached her trial testimony that her conviction was for selling merely “a couple of pills”.

The prosecutors likewise failed to produce police notes indicating that Peggy was seen “doing Coke” in the early hours of the day when Amber was reported missing,[iii] and that Peggy was heavily in debt to her drug suppliers.[iv]

Astonishingly, police records were also suppressed that linked Peggy directly to Amber’s disappearance. One person told police that Peggy was at the Waffle House crying, and saying she had really “fucked up” because she had sold Amber for fifteen hundred dollars.[v] Another individual stated in a verbal and written statement that a waitress told him Peggy was at the Waffle House with no money on the day before Amber disappeared, but that two days later she returned, claiming to have fifteen hundred dollars in her purse.[vi]

A third suppressed police record showed that several people overheard Peggy saying at the inquest:
“He said that he wasn’t going to beat her that bad.”[vii]

It is inconceivable that these extensive, pertinent records could have been considered irrelevant to Jeff’s case. Indeed, one juror told an investigator in 2015 that she “thought the victim’s mother was definitely involved and that she’d probably sold Amber for drugs or money in the past.” She stated that “other jurors felt the same way and wanted the mother charged.” She believed that “the mother and brother had probably gotten their story together to cover up that the mother was drunk.”[viii]

It is clear that if all this suppressed evidence had been available to the jury, the outcome of Jeff’s trial could have been different. It is clear that Jeff deserves a new trial.

[i] Information for this post is taken from: State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Defendant-Appellant.  Case No. 2016-0423. Appellant Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand Case to the Trial Court, filed in the Supreme Court of Ohio, October 7, 2016; pages 21 – 23, page 41 and pages 52 – 53. 
[ii] See State of Ohio v. Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, 2016-0423, Volume 1 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand case to the Trial Court, filed October 7, 2016, pages 110 to 120 (Exhibit 25).
[iii] See State of Ohio v. Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, 2016-0423, Volume 1 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand case to the Trial Court, filed October 7, 2016, page 108 (Exhibit 23).
[iv] See State of Ohio v. Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, 2016-0423, Volume 2 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand case to the Trial Court, filed October 7, 2016, pages 49 – 51 (Exhibits 51, 52 and 53).
[v] See State of Ohio v. Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, 2016-0423, Volume 2 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand case to the Trial Court, filed October 7, 2016, page 54 (Exhibit 56).
[vi] See State of Ohio v. Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, 2016-0423, Volume 2 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand case to the Trial Court, filed October 7, 2016, page 55 (Exhibit 57).
[vii] See State of Ohio v. Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, 2016-0423, Volume 2 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand case to the Trial Court, filed October 7, 2016, page 56 (Exhibit 58).
[viii] See State of Ohio v. Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, 2016-0423, Volume 2 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand case to the Trial Court, filed October 7, 2016, page 38 (Exhibit 43).

 

Posted in drugs, Jeffrey Wogenstahl, jurors, Ohio, Peggy Garrett, prodecutorial misconduct, suppressed evidence, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fundamental Flaws

We are pleased to report that Ohio Governor John Kasich has commuted the death sentence of Raymond Tibbetts to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Citing “fundamental flaws” at the sentencing stage of Tibbetts’ trial, the Governor explained:
“[T]he defense’s failure to present sufficient mitigating evidence, coupled with an inaccurate description of Tibbetts’ childhood by the prosecution, essentially prevented the jury from making an informed decision about whether Tibbetts deserved the death sentence.”

Ross Geiger, a juror at Tibbetts’ trial, had discovered this breakdown of justice by chance, and alerted Governor Kasich to it. The Ohio Parole Board then played down Geiger’s concerns, recommending that Tibbetts’ death sentence remained appropriate. Fortunately, the Governor chose to overrule the Board’s recommendation.

Sadly, the three men who have been executed in Ohio since July 2017* were similarly disadvantaged at the mitigation phase of their trials, but no juror raised concerns about their sentencing.

In Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s case no fewer than three jurors have stated that if significant evidence had not been withheld by the prosecution, they might have made different decisions at the guilt phase of his trial. Thus if the State of Ohio had not grossly violated Jeff’s constitutional rights there is a good chance that he would have been found innocent.

Jeff has waited too long for justice. It is time for the fundamental flaws in his case to be exposed.

*Ronald Phillips, Gary Otte and Robert Van Hook
Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, Jeffrey Wogenstahl, jurors, Ohio, Raymond Tibbetts, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Time of Elevated Torture

Robert Van Hook has been on Ohio’s death row longer than Jeffrey Wogenstahl. The state plans to kill Van Hook on Wednesday, July 18. He has extended family and friends who will mourn his death; they are the unintended victims of Van Hook’s death sentence.

The period leading up to and following Van Hook’s scheduled killing is also a time of elevated psychological torture for all Ohio death row inmates.

According to a certified psychiatrist and clinical psychologist, Van Hook meets the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder and substance abuse disorder, all of which stem from a chaotic and unstable upbringing that included sexual abuse. Together, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder constitute a major disorder that equates with disease.

The seriousness of Van Hook’s disorders was not made clear at his trial. Indeed, his attorneys had only three and a half months from the time of his arrest until the trial; this was insufficient for the necessary investigation and development of mitigation evidence. Courts have been divided as to whether Van Hook’s death sentence should stand: one judge blamed the Hamilton County trial court as deficient for not exploring all mitigating factors.

Governor Kasich has rejected Van Hook’s appeal for clemency. OTSE (Ohioans to Stop Executions) asks that we request the Governor to stay the scheduled execution* until the reforms made by the Ohio Supreme Court Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty are addressed. These reforms would exclude from the death penalty defendants who suffer from serious mental illness. 

We urge you to act on OTSE’s plea.

*The Governor can be phoned at 855-782-6925, or emailed via his website.

Update: Employees of the State of Ohio killed Robert Van Hook on July 18, 2018.

Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, executions, Jeffrey Wogenstahl, mental illness, Ohio, Robert Van Hook, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The State’s Blind Spot*

The State of Ohio has so far failed to acknowledge extensive, significant evidence that was unconstitutionally withheld from Jeffrey Wogenstahl and only recently obtained by him; the State instead chooses to quote the so-called legal “facts” of Jeff’s case that were decided in 1994.

Ohio’s apparent blind spot permeates its attempts to thwart Jeff’s quest for justice. Incredibly, it argues that Jeff should have raised his current claims earlier. The response is obvious:
‘Wogenstahl would have loved to have raised these claims in his prior state court and federal proceedings–the standard of relief to meet would have been lower, relief from an unconstitutional sentence could have been sooner, and Wogenstahl would surely not still be languishing on death row with an execution date looming over his head. The sole reason he did not raise these claims earlier is because the State hid this material.’

Separately, the State attempts to show that Jeff has already raised some of the claims before, and is thus barred from doing so again. But his current claims cannot be the same as any made previously, which lacked the specific evidence that is now available.

Ohio also argues that Jeff should have explained why he delayed in presenting his current claims; again, the answer seems obvious:
‘Once again, the State seems to fail to understand that it was the State that is to blame for this delay… Wogenstahl was indeed “unavoidably prevented” from discovering this material any sooner. Wogenstahl could not anticipate the State of Ohio’s gross violation of his constitutional rights in this death penalty case.’

Finally, the State argues that earlier court decisions cited “overwhelming evidence of guilt”. Jeff’s response is that previously courts were unable to access the critical evidence that has now been forced from the State.

As well as the suppressed evidence, Jeff points to a coroner expert’s affidavit and a report by a crime scene investigation expert, both of which support his claim that he did not murder Amber Garrett.

Jeff’s case is now revealed as “the epitome of a miscarriage of justice”. We trust the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas agrees.

*Information for this post is taken from: State of Ohio, Plaintiff Respondent v. Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Defendant-Petitioner. B 9206287. Reply to State_s Motion to Dismiss Successive Post-Conviction Petition, filed in The Court of Common Pleas, Hamilton County, Ohio. Filed May 2018. (Office of the Ohio Assistant Public Defender). Print.
Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, Hamilton County, Jeffrey Wogenstahl, official misconduct, Ohio, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What the State Suppressed about Jeff’s Cat*

When Jeffrey Wogenstahl became a suspect in the murder of Amber Garrett his apartment was searched, and testing was performed on various blood traces found there: the only confirmed human blood did not match the blood of the victim. Testing failed to determine whether other blood stains were of animal or human origin.

Jeff believed that some blood could have originated from his cat. He testified that in the week before the victim was reported missing his cat jumped from the seat of the toilet in his bathroom towards the top of the shower curtain, hitting its mouth on the side of the tub. As a result it bled from its mouth. Jeff stated that he wiped blood off the side of the tub and the toilet.

In closing argument, the prosecution ridiculed Jeff’s testimony about the cat and the injury to its mouth:

“Have you ever heard of a cat that falls with such force that it knocks itself unconscious and knocks out a tooth? That story is absolutely ridiculous.”

The prosecution later referred to the animal dismissively as “the psychopathic cat”.

However, the jury was unaware that the State had suppressed a report that would have supported Jeff’s testimony and rebutted the stance of the prosecution. The report† showed that the cat did, indeed, have a chipped tooth. It also stated that a blood sample taken from the cat was delivered to Hamilton County Coroner’s Office; but comment on this blood sample was conspicuously absent from both the Coroner’s Office’s Official Crime Laboratory Report,‡ and from the Serological Research Institute’s report.§

The suppression of this report is of great significance. If the jurors had heard evidence that Jeff was telling the truth about his cat’s accident, some might have been more inclined to believe the rest of Jeff’s testimony. And some may have realized that the state itself was dissembling and untrustworthy. The outcome of the trial could thus have been different.

Jeff’s case is littered with similar instances of suppressed information, any one of which could have altered the jury’s verdict. Jeff has not received justice. He deserves a new trial.

 *Information for this post is taken from: State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Defendant-Appellant.  Case No. 2016-0423. Appellant Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand Case to the Trial Court, filed in the Supreme Court of Ohio, October 7, 2016; pages 45 – 47 and page 70. 
† State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Defendant-Appellant.  Case No. 2016-0423. Volume 2 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand Case to the Trial Court, filed in the Supreme Court of Ohio, October 7, 2016 – Case No. 2016-0423.  Exhibit 73 (pages 80 – 85 of pdf). 
‡State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Defendant-Appellant.  Case No. 2016-0423. Volume 2 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand Case to the Trial Court, filed in the Supreme Court of Ohio, October 7, 2016 – Case No. 2016-0423.  Exhibit 74 (pages 86 – 96 of pdf).
§ State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Defendant-Appellant.  Case No. 2016-0423. Volume 2 of Appendix to Appellant Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s Motion to Remand Case to the Trial Court, filed in the Supreme Court of Ohio, October 7, 2016 – Case No. 2016-0423.  Exhibit 75 (pages 97 – 102 of pdf).
Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, Hamilton County, injustice, Jeffrey Wogenstahl, jurors, miscarriages of justice, official misconduct, Ohio, prosecutorial misconduct, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Flawed Statute

Jeffrey Wogenstahl has filed a new petition in the Ohio Supreme Court, claiming that Ohio relied on a flawed statute to allow itself jurisdiction to try him.*

At fault was the statute’s sub-section known as R.C. §2901.11(D); this addressed situations where it was impossible to decide whether a crime had been committed in Ohio or in a different state. In these situations R.C. §2901.11(D) forced courts to presume that Ohio had jurisdiction to try the accused person for the crime.

Jeff argues that this presumption denied him the “due process of law” which is enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and also violated the Ohio Constitution’s Due Course of Law Clause. He contends that instead of presuming that it had jurisdiction, the State should have been required to prove that it had jurisdiction.

Justice French has noted† that although the Ohio Supreme Court requires the State to prove that the venue (location) for a trial is appropriate, that Court has yet to consider whether the State should also prove that it has jurisdiction for the trial. As Jeff points out:
“Given that jurisdiction is a prerequisite to venue, failing to require that the State also prove jurisdiction as an element of the offense would make little sense.”

Jeff adds that some Ohio intermediate appellate courts have already deliberated about this, and have decided that jurisdiction is an element of a crime which the State should be obliged to prove.

Jeff maintains that, lacking jurisdiction, his conviction and resultant death sentence are void. He asks the Court to vacate his current execution date, reopen his direct appeal, and vacate his conviction and sentence for the aggravated murder of Amber Garrett.

We wish him success.

*See State of Ohio, Plaintiff, v. Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Defendant. 1995-0042. Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s Motion for Order or Relief Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule of Practice 4.01. In the Supreme Court of Ohio. Filed May 02, 2018. Supreme Court of Ohio database of cases, accessed May 14, 2018.
† The State of Ohio, Appellee v. Wogenstahl, Appellant. Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-6873, French, J., concurring (pages 15 – 17). Supreme Court of Ohio. Decided July 25, 2017. Supreme Court of Ohio database of cases, accessed May 14, 2018.
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