On August 1, 1984, bartender Gary Mitchell was beaten to death when two men robbed the Central Bar in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Several witnesses described the two perpetrators to police, but no one was immediately arrested.
On October 12, police arrested Derrick Jamison for robbing a Cincinnati restaurant. Police noted that he fit the description of one of the Central Bar robbers given by witnesses, but did not charge him.
In January 1985, police arrested a man named Charles Howell on charges of sexual assault. While in custody, Howell confessed to being an accomplice in the Central Bar robbery and murder, and identified Derrick Jamison as the primary killer. Howell agreed to testify against Jamison in exchange for a lesser sentence; he was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to ten years in prison.
Jamison was indicted for murder in March 1985. At trial, the prosecution built its case around Howell’s testimony and a shoe print from the scene of the crime that was similar to the shoes Jamison was wearing when arrested for the restaurant robbery. In October 1985, Jamison was found guilty and sentenced to death.
In 1988 and 1992, Jamison filed appeals with the Ohio Court of Appeals, First Appellate District, but they were denied both times.
Several years later, a new attorney uncovered exculpatory evidence that had been withheld from the defense. In police interviews, several witnesses described seeing two men running from the scene of the crime – one was approximately five foot six, and holding a brass pipe that presumably was used to beat Mitchell, and the other was approximately six feet tall. Howell is about six feet tall and Jamison is six foot four, so this testimony contradicted Howell’s story that he had committed the crime with Jamison. Also, Howell never mentioned a brass pipe, but claimed that Jamison punched Mitchell and kicked him repeatedly in the head.
On May 20, 2000, Jamison’s attorney filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The Court granted the writ and ordered a new trial on the ground that suppressing exculpatory evidence denied Jamison a fair trial, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed that ruling on May 23, 2002.
The district attorney decided not to retry the case, and on February 28, 2005, the Ohio Court of Common Pleas dismissed the charges against Jamison. He was removed from death row and was released from prison on October 25, 2005.
– Alexandra Gross