Twenty-year-old Bradley Cox was convicted in April 1980 of two rapes and robberies in central Ohio. Following his arrest, after a lengthy interrogation while he was strapped to a chair, and submitted to a series of polygraph examinations (the results of which were never released), Cox confessed to the crimes, but later recanted his confession. As a result of his confession, Cox was convicted and sentenced to 56 to 200 years in prison. It remained unclear whether or not the polygraph machine was actually in operation or whether it was a tactic used by police to encourage his confession.
Cox was a 20-year-old Marine, who had gone AWOL from his post at Camp Lejune in North Carolina. Police in Lancaster, Ohio apprehended him while he was driving a stolen car and took him to the police station for interrogation. After eight hours of questioning and multiple alleged polygraph examinations, Cox signed a confession written for him by one of the interrogators.
In 1981, Cox appealed his conviction on the grounds that his confession was coerced and, thus, inadmissible, but the Ohio Court of Appeals upheld his conviction.
Meanwhile, Cox’s lawyer, Harry Robert Reinhart, suspected that another man, Jon Simonis, was the actual rapist, and asked the rape victims to view Simonis. The victims identified Simonis as the perpetrator, which provided enough evidence to overturn Cox’s conviction. Simonis, dubbed the “Ski Mask Rapist,” had been implicated in a string of at least 81 rapes and robberies, and was subsequently sentenced to 21 life terms, with an additional 2,681 years of prison time. Cox was not the only person who had been wrongfully convicted of crimes perpetrated by Simonis. Clarence Von Williams of Orange, Texas, was also convicted of a rape which Simonis later admitted committing.
Fairfield County Common Pleas Judge N. Raymond Morehart vacated the guilty verdict against Cox and ordered a new trial after receiving a petition from Cox’s attorney. The Fairfield County prosecutor had previously announced that if a new trial was ordered, he would not pursue a re-trial and Cox would be freed.
Cox was released from prison on January 22, 1982, after nearly two years in custody. On December 18, 1988, he was awarded $110,000 in damages by the State of Ohio for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
- Dolores Kennedy
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.