By Kim Palmer
(Reuters) – An Ohio judge on Monday dismissed murder charges against three men who faced retrial in a 1995 killing after serving 18 years in prison, winning an appeal and being released in 2015.
Cuyahoga County Judge Nancy Margaret Russo dismissed the case against the three men, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Cleveland said. The men’s original convictions were overturned last year, when Russo ruled that evidence in their favor was suppressed at their original trial.
A new trial for the men, now in their late 30s, had been scheduled to begin this week. But prosecutors dropped the charges after a higher court upheld Russo’s 2015 ruling and asked the judge to dismiss the case.
Derrick Wheatt, Laurese Glover and Eugene Johnson were all teenagers tried as adults when they were convicted of the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Clifton Hudson in East Cleveland in 1995.
In the 1996 trial, prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of 14-year-old Tamika Harris who told police she saw the person who shot Hudson get into a Chevy the teenagers were riding in.
Attorneys for the Ohio Innocence Project said Harris later recanted her identification of Johnson as the shooter and that one of the assistant county prosecutors at the time directed police not to turn over exculpatory evidence in the case.
The U.S. 8th District Court of Appeals ruled in May there was a reasonable probability that a jury would have reached a different decision if the concealed evidence had been presented at the 1996 trial.
The three men have been out on bond since April 2015. No other suspects has been charged with Harris’ murder.
(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Cynthia Osterman)