Saturday, May 29, 2010

The $64,000 question - and more

QUESTIONS – Note: I don’t know exactly what the police and/or prosecutor were obligated to share back then – that is, to what degree were they able to conclude that something was not useful and not share it with the defense? Some of these questions are based on the assumption that Carl Kuhnle, the defense attorney, did know about the interviews and/or witnesses discussed in the post below. Some echo what is stated in the post below, but are repeated as questions for ease of review. 

1. Why was June Kramer the only witness called by the defense?

2. What was the result of the examination of the blood in the stairwell, etc?

3. Why, if admissible, wasn’t information about Dennis Cordle, Bobby Confer, etc. introduced by the defense to plant a seed of doubt as to whether or not others might have been “after” Henry Cordle? I don’t really think they had anything to do with it, but wouldn’t this have been a reasonable defense strategy?

4. Why didn’t the defense call John Miller? Miller had stated that he had been spending about 75% of his time with Ustaszewski and that he had never seen the knife in question (the knife Ustaszewski alleges he purchased from Russell on 9/9/77) before 9/11/77. Why wouldn’t the defense have raised this as potential evidence of the fact that Ustaszewski didn’t own the knife in August? Note: In the trial transcript, but not in the file, is testimony regarding Morris and Soinski trying to sell a "long knife" to one of the desk clerks, Justin George.

5. What happened to the “tests” of the knife, referred to above? I know that the technology in 1977 would have precluded getting much, if anything, from a knife that has been washed, etc., but I don’t believe this was ever raised at trial. Wouldn’t it have made sense for the defense to raise the issue of the lack of blood evidence on the knife? I don’t believe they did so.

6. What about the jeans? How does one stab someone 37 times and get small stains of blood on his pants, so limited and dirty that tests are inconclusive as to anything except that they were blood? Why wasn't more made of this in the defense's closing argument?

7. Why didn’t the defense call Harold Beat to testify about seeing the black man run out of the building between 0200 and 0400 hours? Even though the interview with Soinski suggests it was not Morris, given Percy Wright’s statement this would have been worth introducing. Not only is the time inconsistent with Morris’ testimony, it is interesting that Beat saw only a black man leave and not a white man. Would Ustaszewski simply have gone back to his room after stabbing someone 37 times?

8. What happened to the photos that came from the camera? Strange, too, that the camera was clean of prints.

9. When the defense called June Kramer, why was she was not asked about the caller who threatened her and her conclusion that it was a black man who called the day after she provided the camera to the police?

10. Soinski is the mystery man here. He seems to have been a friend of Morris and he, too, disappeared shortly after the murder. Why? And, what does he know? Note: I've been in touch with Soinksi and he is puzzled by some of the material in the police file. [March 2012]

11. Why didn’t the defense call Percy Wright to testify that he had seen a black man in the victim’s room some time between 2:30 and 3 in the morning (night) of the murder? The time frame in which Wright describes having seen and heard the person completely contradicts Morris’ testimony that he was there briefly, and around 10, and fled. It would also be worth noting that he did not see a white man in the room, nor did he hear the noises he would have heard if Morris’ testimony was truthful in regard to the sounds that occurred.

12. Unrelated to the file materials, but from the trial transcript, did anyone try to track down the two men (i.e., Beady and Falsted) that CG, the informant, testified were in the cell when Ustaszewski allegedly confessed to him? Although CG stated that he didn’t believe they had heard the exchange, why wouldn’t the defense have called them to testify regarding exactly that; that they didn’t hear anything?

NOTE: I now know the above referenced inmate to actually be Jack Beatty, not Beady as indicated in the trial transcript. Again, the errors amaze me! [2 Sep 2010]

13. Unrelated to the file materials, but from the trial transcript, does anyone else find it suspicious that Ustaszewski was in jail with CG, asserting his innocence for weeks, and then, the state - having asked for a continuance - released Ustaszewski on his own recognizance only to have him suddenly tell CG he did it? And, CG's attorney was the co-defendant's (Morris) attorney, too? Oh, and CG, who was in jail awaiting trial for a first degree felony copped to a fourth degree felony? Coincidence?

14. Unrelated to the file materials, but from Ustaszewski, he eventually recalled that he had had a client at the Commodore Perry on the night of the 20th. Did anyone, on either side, investigate this? Ustaszewski said he was with a “William, or Bill, from Detroit” in room 800. Apparently nobody ever went to the hotel to see if such a person could be identified. Too late now – the hotel operation is long gone - but nothing indicates that they followed up.

15. Unrelated to the file materials, but from work of the Ohio Innocence Project. Detective Thomas Ross was the lead detective on the case. He now works as a special agent, of sorts, for the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office. After winning an appeal re the testing of DNA evidence, Ross was the person sent to the TPD property room to search for the evidence. His affidavit states that records show it was destroyed in January 1979, per the Lucas County prosecutor. As I've stated elsewhere, isn't this the fox guarding the hen house. Isn't there just a bit of conflict of interest here? 

16. The $64,000 question is whether Carl Kuhnle – currently practicing law in Toledo - simply ignored all of the options he had to for creating doubt in the mind of the jury or whether he never had any of this information? He had recently spent three years in the prosecutor’s office. Is it really possible that he thought the case was so open and shut that he just never considered that they had any other information besides the obvious? Or, did he believe it was so open and shut that he didn't bother to do more than a sham of representation?

So, unbelievably ineffective assistance of counsel, Brady violations, or both? Carl Kuhnle knows. Who else has the answers? Do they care that some whose eighteenth birthday had barely passed has now spent 32 years in prison - and that they may have contributed to the conviction of someone innocent of the crime for which he was convicted?

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