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Under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, we are protected from cruel and unusual punishment and guaranteed due process. That means, among other things, that laws should apply equally and in the same way to everyone. In a case to be adjudicated by the Ohio Supreme Court, though, some are arguing that Ohio’s current DNA testing laws violate these rights.
As they currently stand, Ohio’s DNA testing laws block defendants from appealing a trial judge’s decisions regarding DNA testing after conviction in cases where capital punishment has been sentenced, but not for lesser crimes. This means that not all defendants have the same appeal opportunities. This situation could, however, soon change. The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a death row inmate’s appeal that these laws unfairly discriminate against defendants on death row.
In the case going to the Ohio Supreme Court, Tyrone Noling wants access to more DNA testing he says could prove his innocence, but any ruling could have a much greater impact than simply on Noling’s life. If the court deems current laws unconstitutional, all capital defendants could have a new route of appeals.
Noling’s lawyers argue that giving death row inmates this extra chance for an appeal is vital for justice, as Ohio should not be able to execute an innocent person. Since other people convicted of less harshly punished crimes already have this option, it seems only fair to give those facing the harshest punishment the same opportunity. Whether or not this argument will convince the justices remains to be seen.
In the meantime, we are likely to hear more about Noling’s case again almost two decades after his conviction. Noling was convicted in 1996 of shooting elderly couple Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig to death in a burglary gone wrong. He was convicted six years after the crime was committed based solely on eyewitness testimony that has since been recanted, despite the fact that he passed a polygraph supporting his innocence and a general lack of forensic evidence.
Noting claims that a cigarette butt found at the crime scene will show that another suspect accused by other witnesses was in fact guilty. Whether or not the cigarette butt can be retested is the central decision to be made by the court.
As we await a ruling, his situation reminds us that no one deserves to be unfairly convicted. When you are accused of a crime, you deserve skilled legal representation to ensure that your rights are protected. If you are arrested, contact an Ohio criminal defense attorney right away to help you fight the charges and protect your rights. Call Luftman, Heck, & Associates today at for a free consultation on your case to find out how we may be able to help.