In 1977, Michael Ustaszewski, solely on the basis of the testimony of another defendant and a jailhouse informant - both of whom happened to have the same attorney, was convicted of aggravated murder. The results of examination of the limited physical evidence were deemed inconclusive.
In 2004-2006, Michael worked with the Innocence Project only to discover that, per the order of the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, the evidence had been destroyed.
Michael was convicted in December 1977. Notice of appeal was filed on 10 January 1978. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction on 9 February 1979.
Why then the following result of the post-conviction DNA petition? The investigating officer's affidavit states, "On January 24, 1979, per the prosecutor's office, all evidence was destroyed."
Why would the prosecutor's office order the Toledo Police Department to destroy evidence on something as serious as aggravated murder?
And, even if that makes sense, why was evidence destroyed before the Court of Appeals even published their ruling on the lower court results?
Why, over 25 years later, would one of the lead detectives on the original case be the one assigned to locate evidence? Yes, the above-referenced affidavit was signed by the same officer. Evidence that, if it exonerated Michael, might have implicated that same detective in a miscarriage of justice. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.
If you read the trial transcripts, as I have, you would think, well, maybe... Michael certainly made some stupid decisions. But, there's a reason he was living at the YMCA on release from the Ohio Youth Commission. He'd be the first to tell you he said and did some stupid things. But, the whole picture - something not put before the court - suggests that, while he had engage in criminal behavior, he didn't kill anyone.
From the day he was arrested, over 32 years ago, Michael has professed his innocence. He remains incarcerated in the state of Ohio.