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Former Ohio AG supports convicted murderer’s bid to overturn conviction

Posted Apr 8, 2014 8:51 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Former Ohio Attorney General James Petro is supporting a convicted murderer’s bid to overturn his conviction.

Convicted murder Alfred Cleveland is asking a federal judge to overturn his 1991 murder conviction after his accuser recanted his testimony, report the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Chronicle-Telegram and the Morning Journal. In an amicus brief, Petro said Cleveland was convicted based on the strength of testimony by William Avery, who has since recanted.

“Simply put, Mr. Cleveland’s conviction hangs solely upon the recanted testimony of someone who was paid to give that testimony and who angled to extort more for it,” Petro wrote. The former attorney general said in the brief he occasionally reviews wrongful conviction cases, which led him to Cleveland’s case.

Avery, an admitted drug addict, was paid $6,000 to cooperate with authorities, the Plain Dealer says. Avery recanted to the FBI and the Plain Dealer, but he refused to testify at a 2008 court hearing for a new trial when prosecutors threatened him with perjury charges, according to Cleveland’s lawyer, J. Philip Calabrese, who argued in a hearing on Monday.

Cleveland says he was in New York at the time of the Ohio slaying.

U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary is reviewing the evidence after the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that Cleveland had presented enough new evidence to support his claim of actual innocence that he would likely be cleared in a retrial.

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