Wrongful Conviction: Jury Deliberates

After a week of testimony a jury is deciding if a man wrongfully convicted of bank robbery and murder should be compensated for his time in prison. Timothy Howard spent 26 years in prison for a crime he says he did not commit. But state law requires Howard to prove his innocence. WOSU’s Mandie Trimble reports .

“Those fingerprints aren’t his because he wasn’t there. It’s plain and simple.”

One of Timothy Howard’s attorney’s, James Owen, began Monday’s closing arguments creating what he called a pyramid of truth. With Howard’s name at the top of the pyramid, Owen built a foundation of arguments pointing to his client’s innocence. He told jurors they should rely on Howard’s testimony as the truth. The truth, Owen said, that Howard has been maintaining for almost three decades.

Owen also reminded the jury that there is no physical or forensic evidence linking Howard to the crime.

“The forensic evidence you got were those four latent prints which don’t incriminate Timmy, they explicate him. They show he’s innocent. Any other forensic evidence, crime scene, search unit, F.B.I, police? Anything? Nothing,” said James Owens

Assistant county prosecutor, Mary Jane Martin, said the plaintiff’s pyramid of truth was not very stable. And Martin told the jury that Howard’s attorneys are just looking for them to feel badly for him.

“This is the pyramid of truth they call it. Well, a pyramid has a foundation. Well, that foundation is non-existent. That just crumbles away if you look at the evidence that they presented. What they want you to do is feel sympathy for him. He was incarcerated for decades. That is what they’re basing their case on: pure sympathy,” said Mary Jane Martin

Martin reminded the jury that this is a civil matter, not a criminal one. And that it’s Howard who has to prove his case.

“It is your job to determine whether he has shown actual innocence. I’m confident if you actually consider what evidence Timothy Howard has presented you will find he has not met his burden,” said Mary Jane Martin

Howard, who appeared to be tired Monday, said clearing his name means a lot to him. He said he’s not sure what the next step will be if the jury’s verdict is not in his favor.

“So about three decades now I’ve been trying to prove my innocence. So I’m right here at the end of the line so I’m looking forward to getting this done,” said Timothy Howard

For Howard to win his case, six of the eight jurors must agree that he had the greatest weight of evidence proving his innocence. And then it only has to be by a small margin. If the jury finds for Howard he will have to file an application of compensation at the Court of Claims. He could potentially be awarded millions of dollars. Howard’s alleged accomplice Gary Lamar James’ trial is set to start May 31st. Mandie Trimble, WOSU News.

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