Michael Keenan freed, murder charge from 24 years ago dismissed by Cuyahoga County judge (Ohio)
September 6, 2012
By Peter Krouse
The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Cuyahoga County judge this morning dismissed a 24-year-old murder charge against Michael Keenan, who had spent about two decades on death row with co-defendant Joe D'Ambrosio.
The decision was a dramatic change of events from Wednesday, when it appeared that Keenan was prepared to plead to involuntary manslaughter charges in order to be released from prison right away.
Judge John Russo set bond at $5,000 today, essentially allowing Keenan to be freed immediately.
Keenan was prepared to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter Wednesday for the 1988 slaying of Tony Klann if he could walk out of the Justice Center a free man.
But the proposed plea deal with county prosecutors hit a snag when Keenan balked at the prospect of spending five years under supervised release with regular visits to a parole officer.
So prosecutors and defense lawyers resumed their negotiations.
Keenan, 62, was twice convicted of killing Klann in 1988 in Cleveland's Rockefeller Park. D'Ambrosio, who also was convicted of killing Klann, was freed in 2009 after a federal judge determined that evidence that could have exonerated him had been withheld from his trial attorneys.
Another federal judge ruled in April that Keenan had to be tried again or have his verdict set aside.
Both Keenan and D'Ambrosio spent many years on death row, always professing their innocence.
A Catholic priest who befriended D'Ambrosio in prison and was convinced of his innocence worked with lawyers to uncover evidence favorable to both defendants that had been withheld by county prosecutors at trial.
That evidence included police statements that concluded Klann could not have been killed at Doan Brook, as the prosecutors' only eyewitness to the killing claimed.
Eddie Espinoza, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with Klann's death and was given a reduced sentence, claimed that Keenan slit Klann's throat and D'Ambrosio stabbed him in the chest.
The withheld evidence also included information that the man who led police to Keenan, D'Ambrosio and Espinoza, had a possible motive for killing Klann.
Keenan's new trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 31, but he's now a free man.