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Sean Ennis

Other Ohio Cases with Mistaken Witness Identifications
On September 24, 1987, a 17-year-old employee at a Pizza Hut restaurant in Columbus, Ohio was kidnapped by a man who drove her to a nearby school where he raped her and drove away.

The woman flagged down a car and asked for help. The driver took her to a police station where she said her attacker was a white male 18 to 21 years old, about 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 150 pounds. She said he drove a black Chevrolet Camaro and had a blue and white garter belt hanging from the rear view mirror.

Four months later, the woman believed she saw her attacker at a convenience store and gave police the license plate number of the car he was driving. The car was traced to 23-year-old Sean Ennis, who was 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 210 pounds. Ennis told police he had a white garter—not a blue and white garter belt—hanging from his rear view mirror and that the car had a T-top, a detail the victim had not mentioned. Ennis denied the attack.

In April 1987, Ennis was indicted on charges rape and kidnapping.

Prior to trial, his attorney asked police if the victim had mentioned anything about a bandage on her attacker’s arm. A detective said she had not, but then asked her and the detective said she recalled a brown Ace bandage on his right arm.

Ennis went to trial in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in July 1990 and chose to have the case heard by a judge without a jury.

The victim testified that at about 10:30 p.m. she was waiting a bus stop after work when she was kidnapped and driven to the school where she was dragged from the car into a field where she was forced to engage in fellatio and then raped. She identified Ennis as her attacker.

She said the attack occurred about 15 minutes after she was abducted. A hospital report said that she told a nurse that she had been abducted at about 10:30. The police report quoted her as saying she was raped at 10:45 p.m.

The defense called Ennis’s wife and his mother-in-law. They testified that earlier in the evening, they took Ennis to the hospital for treatment of an arm injury and they left around 9 p.m. with his hand and arm bandaged. They stopped at a grocery store and arrive at home. Then, at 10:10 p.m., they went to to the airport in Columbus to pick up a relative. Both testified that when the left, Ennis was lying on a couch and when they returned after midnight, he was asleep.

Ennis testified and denied committing the crime. He said his injury left him incapable of driving his car because it had a manual transmission.

The prosecution contended in closing argument that Ennis had enough time to leave his house and go cruising when he saw the victim, abducted and raped her and then went home before his wife and mother-in-law returned from the airport.

On July 10, 1990, the trial judge convicted Ennis of rape and kidnapping and sentenced to him to five to 25 years in prison.

Following his conviction, Ennis discovered that the man who gave the victim a ride to the police station shortly after the attack told the police that the woman flagged him down at 10 p.m.—when Ennis was said to be home on the couch. In addition, the man said the woman said the rape occurred in the car, not in a field.

Ennis also discovered that the prosecution failed to turn over the names of two other suspects in the attack—based on identifications of black Camaros that the victim had made before she gave police the license plate number traced to Ennis’s car.

Ennis’s attorney filed a petition for a new trial. Following an evidentiary hearing, the petition was denied. Ennis appealed and on May 19, 1994, the 10th District Court of Appeals of Ohio granted Ennis a new trial on the basis of the prosecution’s failure to turn over the evidence.

On September 1, 1994, the prosecution dismissed the charges and he was released.

In June 2020, Ennis filed a civil lawsuit seeking to be declared a wrongly convicted individual to obtain compensation from the state of Ohio. In March 2021, the state agreed that Ennis was wrongfully convicted and agreed to pay $350,000 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 3/11/2021
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Kidnapping
Reported Crime Date:1987
Sentence:5 to 25 years
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No