CLEVELAND, Ohio - Sentenced to death for murders he says he did not commit when he was 23, Tyrone Noling, now 45, and his attorneys believe one way to find "the actual perpetrator" is through state-of-the-art DNA testing.
For nearly 9 years, lower courts have blocked Noling's access to the DNA testing of evidence collected at the crime scene - including ring boxes and shell casings discovered in a tidy ranch in Atwater, about an hour outside of Cleveland. The bodies of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig were found there too, in the kitchen, shot with a .25- caliber handgun.
Though no physical evidence has ever linked Noling to the crime - no fingerprints, no hair, no murder weapon - he sits on Ohio's death row for being the triggerman who executed the longtime married couple based solely on the testimony of three alleged accomplices, all of whom have recanted their testimony, saying they lied after being coached and threatened by a prosecutor's investigator, two decades ago.
"I sold my soul that day," one of Noling's accusers now says.
Portage County prosecutors, who once built the case against Noling using the men's damning confessions, now dismiss what they have to say as fiction.
On Tuesday, Brian Howe, a lawyer for Noling, will argue in the Ohio Supreme Court that his client deserves to have DNA tests conducted on those crucial pieces of evidence - gathered by police 27 years ago - and that those tests be done at a lab with sophisticated enough technology to do such analysis.
Howe is also asking that any DNA tests already run by the state - on a cigarette butt retrieved from the Hartig's driveway - be turned over to Noling and his defense team.
Although prosecutors have provided Noling with a one-page summary of conclusions from a technician at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation - the state's crime lab - they have not forwarded the detailed results of the tests. Those details are important, Noling's defenders say, because they could conceivably point to the DNA profile of another killer (neither one of the Hartigs smoked) and demonstrate that the killer's DNA is also on the shell casings and the ring boxes. Noling and his co-defendants were excluded from the DNA found on the cigarette butt years ago.
(To read details of Noling's arguments, click here to access his Merit Brief filed with the Ohio Supreme court January 2017.)
Source: cleveland.com, The Plain Dealer, Andrea Simakis, June 20, 2017
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