CLEVELAND (AP) — A former Ohio attorney general says a man serving a life prison sentence may have been wrongly convicted of murder.
Former Attorney General James Petro asked a federal judge on Monday to grant Alfred Cleveland’s petition for release or for a new trial in the 1991 slaying of a Lorain prostitute.
Petro, who was attorney general from 2003 to 2007, said in a court filing he was concerned that Cleveland was convicted and sentenced to life in prison almost exclusively on the testimony of an admitted drug addict who was paid $6,000 for his cooperation with police and the courts.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer ( ) reported that the man, William Avery, has since admitted that he lied about seeing Cleveland and three other men commit the killing.
He has told the FBI and made several affidavits in which he said he lied and implicated Cleveland because he owed him money.
“Avery has since recanted his testimony,” Petro’s brief said. “And while courts and prosecutors are often suspicious of a witness’ recantation, it is also possible that the recantation is a genuine attempt to do the right thing.”
Lawyers for Cleveland on Monday gave final arguments on the motion to have Visiting Judge Jack Zouhary revisit the conviction. Zouhary could free Cleveland or order a new trial. He didn’t say when he will rule.
Cleveland’s lawyer, J. Philip Calabrese, told the judge that the prosecution has no evidence to prove Cleveland committed the killing. Calabrese presented statements from witnesses who said Cleveland was in New York at the time of the slaying.
A lawyer from the attorney general’s office opposed the effort, saying Avery testified the same way about the killing in four murder trials.
Information from: The Plain Dealer,