Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Prisoner freed after spending 21 years on death row

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CLEVELAND -- A U.S. man who spent more than 21 years on death row is free after a judge on Thursday dismissed the murder charge against him in the 1988 stabbing death of a man whose body was found in a Cleveland park.

A county judge dismissed the charge of aggravated murder against Michael Keenan, 62, after determining evidence that could have exonerated him was withheld from his attorneys.

Keenan's attorney, John Hildebrand, said his client was "obviously thrilled" with the ruling.

Richard Bell, the assistant prosecutor who handled the latest proceedings in the case, said in a statement that the prosecution will appeal. Bell said Keenan could have received a fair trial.

Keenan was convicted of killing Tony Klann, 19.

Another man, Joe D'Ambrosio, was also convicted of murdering Klann, but a Catholic priest who had befriended D'Ambrosio found evidence that could have helped both men at trial. The withheld evidence included police statements concluding Klann could not have been murdered where prosecution witness Edward Espinoza claimed the killing occurred, Hildebrand said.

Espinoza, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the case and testified against Keenan and D'Ambrosio, was released in 2001 after serving 12 years in prison. He has since died. D'Ambrosio was freed in 2010 by a judge who determined evidence that could have exonerated him was withheld from his trial attorneys.

Hildebrand said Keenan is considering suing the state for wrongful imprisonment.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2012 ??65518

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