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Franklin Wilmoth

Other Ohio Exonerations
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In February 1993, a grand jury in Portage County, Ohio, indicted 52-year-old Franklin Wilmoth on charges of sexually assaulting four mentally-challenged women that lived with him and his wife in their home in Mogadore, Ohio.

Wilmoth earned a living selling exotic birds. His wife, Mary, ran a group home to care for the women through the Portage County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

In 1992, one of the women, R.J., told a relative who paid a visit that Wilmoth had intercourse with her and she thought she had AIDS. A physical examination show evidence of a yeast infection, but no evidence of intercourse. During subsequent interviews with caseworkers, R.J. said she had been raped.

Another of the residents in the Wilmoth home, D.J., was interviewed and initially said that Wilmoth had never sexually touched her. However, in a later interview, D.J. said that Wilmoth sexually molested her.

When caseworkers interviewed the two other women, M.U. and J.J., both initially denied any sexual activity. However, after subsequent interviews, they also accused Wilmoth of sexual abuse.

In April 1994, Wilmoth went to trial in Portage County Court of Common Pleas and chose to have the case decided by a judge without a jury. He was accused of two counts of rape, two counts of felonious sexual penetration, three counts of gross sexual imposition, four counts of patient abuse, and one count of assault of a functionally impaired person.

The prosecution’s case consisted of testimony from the four women who said that Wilmoth had sexually assaulted them in the Wilmoth home.

Wilmoth testified in his own defense—as did his wife—and denied that the women were assaulted. Wilmoth testified that he was impotent and physically incapable of achieving an erection.

Wilmoth’s defense attorney sought to call Wilmoth’s personal physician to testify that Wilmoth was incapable of an erection. The prosecution objected, saying the defense had failed to give proper notice that the physician would testify and it was therefore unprepared to question the physician.

Judge Joseph Kainrad sustained the objection and barred the physician from testifying.

On April 13, 1994, Judge Kainrad convicted Wilmoth of two counts of gross sexual imposition and one count of patient abuse relating to R.J., the first woman to make an allegation of sexual assault. Wilmoth was sentenced to three years in prison.

In June 1995, the Court of Appeals of Ohio reversed Wilmoth’s convictions and ordered a new trial. The appeals court ruled that Judge Kainrad had remedies other than barring the testimony, particularly since there was no jury. The judge, the court noted, could have continued the trial to allow the prosecution time to prepare. The court ruled that barring the physician denied Wilmoth his “constitutional right to present a defense.”

On August 5, 1995, Wilmoth was released from prison. On October 10, 2000, the prosecution dismissed the charges.

Wilmoth subsequently filed a civil lawsuit and a judge declared him factually innocent. He was then awarded $111,934 in compensation by the state of Ohio.

Wilmoth and his wife, who lost their contract with the state because of the conviction, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. The suit claimed that caseworkers and police, through improper questioning, had induced the women to falsely accuse Wilmoth. The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge who ruled it had been filed too late.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/18/2018
State:Ohio
County:Portage
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:1992
Convicted:1994
Exonerated:2000
Sentence:3 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:51
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No