Jeffrey Wogenstahl’s case has been brought to the attention of a wider audience through a podcast, Episode 7 of “The Real Killer”. The episode’s title, “A Caricature, a Travesty, an Obscenity”, refers to the perversion of justice caused by prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Keith LaMar, another death row inmate who, like Jeff, was tried by prosecutors from Hamilton County, Ohio, in the 1990s.[i]
In the course of the episode we hear from one of Jeff’s attorneys, Kim Rigby, about the prosecutorial misconduct that was also rife in Jeff’s case. Kim explains that the First District Court of Appeals in Ohio was so concerned that it demanded an independent review of the prosecutors’ actions in withholding from the defense Eric Horn’s drug trafficking conviction.[ii] Jeff’s trial prosecutors were Joseph Deters (now Justice Joseph T. Deters of the Ohio Supreme Court), Mark Piepmeier and Rick Gibson.
Kim then describes how later even more evidence of prosecutorial misconduct was revealed, when a change in the Ohio public records law allowed her team to access the Harrison Police Department records on Jeff’s case: they found a “treasure trove of police reports and tips that were previously unknown to the defense”
The podcast touches on the case of a Hamilton County death row exoneree, Derrick Jamison;[iii] this sheds light on how so much evidence came to be concealed. Derrick Jamison’s prosecutor, Mark Piepmeier (also one of Jeff’s prosecutors) has testified that it was routine practice at the time of Jamison’s trial in 1985 for Hamilton County prosecutors to require the police to supply them only with what they called a ‘homicide book’ for a murder case. Police could decide what went into a homicide book; if exculpatory evidence was omitted from it, prosecutors were ignorant of it, so could not pass it on to the defense.
An earlier contributor, and former prosecutor, confirms that even during the 1990s “you try your case without providing the defense much evidence at all – just the bare basics”. He describes this practice as ‘outrageous’.
As Kim points out, even if Jeff’s prosecutors were unaware of what remained in his police file, they should have known about it and turned it over to the defense. But, Kim concludes,
“Frankly, the prosecutors should be seeking justice, not just convictions.”
Jamison is sure that if his attorneys had not uncovered the 35 pieces of exculpatory evidence that led to his exoneration, he would now be “in the cemetery”. Despite suffering 20 years in the bleak surroundings of death row and facing execution 7 times, he has received only $75 from the State of Ohio.
The podcast ends with good news about Elwood Jones,[iv] a death row inmate convicted in Hamilton County in 1996, who also suffered from prosecutors’ failure to pass exculpatory evidence to his defense. In December, 2022, Jones was allowed to leave prison to await a new trial. How wonderful the words of Hamilton County Judge Wende Cross must have sounded to him as she announced her decision!…
“It is clear that the failure to disclose the existence of relevant exculpatory and impeaching evidence prior to trial deprived Elwood Jones of a fair trial. The Sixth Amendment requires a new trial as the only appropriate remedy. Accordingly, Elwood Jones’ Motion for New Trial is hereby granted.”
We hope Jeff will soon also hear words like these. A new trial with all the evidence available is, for him too, the only appropriate remedy.
This first paragraph of this post was corrected on April 27, 2023. Although the special prosecutors assigned to Keith LaMar’s case were from Hamilton County, his trial took place in Lawrence County, not Hamilton County as originally stated.
[i] For more about Keith LaMar, see New York Times, Feb 11, 2022: “Jazz Freed Keith LaMar’s Soul. Can It Help Him Get Off Death Row?”. Laura Zornosa.
[ii] See: State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee, vs. Jeffrey A. Wogenstahl, Defendant-Appellant. Appeal No. C-030945. 970 N.E.2d 447 (2004) 2004-Ohio-5994. Opinion, Court of Appeals of Ohio, First Appellate District, Hamilton County. November 12, 2004. Opinion, Judge Mark Painter: [*P2] : “… the prosecutors’ conduct needs review by other authorities.”
[iii] For more about Derrick Jamison see WCPO Cinncinnati, March 21, 2023: “He was 90 minutes away from death when he got another chance at life. He’s using it to fight the death penalty”. Jessica Hart.
[iv] For more about Elwood Jones see USA Today, March 14, 2023: “’I was a thief. I’m not a murderer.’ After nearly 30 years on death row, a retrial”. Amber Hunt.