40 Convictions Tied to Crooked East Cleveland Cops to be Overturned

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click to enlarge 40 Convictions Tied to Crooked East Cleveland Cops to be Overturned
Justice Center, Photo courtesy of Aivazovsky via Wikimedia Commons
Cuyahoga County has a wrongful conviction problem. We can say that not just because this was the scene of the longest wrongful conviction to end in exoneration in the history of the US legal system, or that region sees a steady clip of exonerations each year. No, Cuyahoga County has a wrongful conviction problem because its a cash-strapped, racially hyper-segregated region with a deep history of law enforcement issues—basically the Barefoot Contessa recipe for bad prosecutions.

What remains to be seen is what the powers-that-be are doing about that problem. Since taking office, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty promised to tackle wrongful convictions head on, including forming one of the country's first county-led conviction integrity units. This week, in what will likely be one of the former-judge's last splashes in public office, McGinty moved to vacate the convictions of 40 defendants.

Cleveland.com's Eric Heisig has all the details. The cases were all tied to a trio of East Cleveland detectives—-Torris Moore, Antonio Malone, and Eric Jones—-who are now in federal prison for shaking down drug dealers, among other crimes.

"Due to the now known conduct of these former officers in past cases, the County Prosecutor no longer has confidence in the Defendant's conviction," says the motion filed by the prosecutor's office.

Only one of the 40 is currently in prison serving a sentence based solely on those charges. The rest either have already served their time, been released, or are serving time on unrelated charges.

Earlier this year, the office moved to vacate the convictions of three men also arrested by the bad East Cleveland cops. All the cases were reviewed by the county's Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). And while the cases tied to the East Cleveland detectives represent a significant wrong that's now been righted, there are still questions about the CIU's efficiency—-over-turning convictions tied to bad cops isn't exactly a tough call. In general, the county's CIU has produced mixed results so far.

The CIU is expected to change under incoming prosecutor Mike O'Malley's administration. In November, the prosecutor-elect told Scene the CIU has "been promoted heavily as an accomplishment of the office, but it has to be more than a press release. It has to be something that actually functions . . . It's a good day when you get a conviction. It's also a good or better day if there's someone who's been sitting in prison unfairly and you find that out."
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