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William Campbell

Other Hamilton County, Ohio exonerations
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Just before midnight on October 1, 2008, a 2004 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle ran a stop sign, hit a raised embankment, went through an intersection, hit two trees, and crashed into Northview Wesleyan Church in Colerain Township in Hamilton County, Ohio.

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Corporal Robert Viner had been following the vehicle prior to the crash because it took off very quickly from a stop sign. Viner activated his flashing lights and siren when the vehicle blew past the stop sign and almost immediately lost control and crashed.

He arrived on the scene of the crash almost immediately. He found 38-year-old William “Tony” Campbell lying in the grass wearing shorts and a black t-shirt. Viner noted that the rearview mirror was on the grass next to Campbell. There was a large hole in the windshield on the passenger side. Inside the vehicle, crumpled against the passenger door was 37-old Tina Hayes, the owner of the vehicle. Hayes suffered a broken neck and did not survive.

Viner later testified that he asked Campbell who was driving the vehicle and Campbell replied, “It wasn’t me. Not me.” Viner said he looked in the driver’s side window and saw a pair of shoes. He said he noticed that Campbell was shoeless.

The second officer to arrive, Hamilton County Sheriff’s officer William Porzel Jr. also asked Campbell who was driving, and Campbell said he was not the one driving.

Emergency personnel removed Hayes from the vehicle and took her to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. Campbell was taken to the hospital for treatment. His blood alcohol level was .155, nearly twice the legal limit of .08. After he was treated, he was arrested.

Two weeks later, on October 14, 2008, Campbell was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and failure to obey a police officer. At the time of the crash, Campbell was under multiple lifetime suspensions of his driver’s license after six convictions for drunk driving.

In June 2009, Campbell went to trial in Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. A jury was selected, opening statements were given, and the jurors were taken to the site of the crash to view the scene.

A mistrial was declared the following day, however, when the prosecution discovered a separate set of keys to the Explorer (based on serial numbers). They were in the pocket of Campbell’s shorts, which had been taken as evidence at the hospital. The keys, however, had not been discovered or inventoried. The defense argued that the keys were evidence favorable to Campbell because a separate set of keys was still in the ignition when Corporal Viner arrived at the scene.

Campbell went to trial a second time in October 2009. Deputy Coroner William Ralston testified that he performed an autopsy on Hayes. He said he found a six-inch cut to the left side of her head. He said she also had injuries to her left knee, right clavicular chest area, right wrist, and right forearm. The cause of death was a broken neck. Dr. Ralston said he could not say whether Hayes was the driver or passenger.

Joan Dawson Burke, a forensic analyst with the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office, testified that DNA tests showed Campbell’s blood was found on the passenger’s side airbag. Burke said no blood was found on the driver’s side airbag. A mixture of DNA was found on the shoes and neither Campbell nor Hayes could be excluded, Burke said.

John Mulholland, a Hamilton County Sheriff’s crime scene investigator, testified that he collected hairs and blood from the vehicle and submitted to the crime lab. He said he had no idea how long the hairs had been in the vehicle and that on the day that he collected them, it was windy. He never tested for fingerprints.

Michael Trimpe, a forensic analyst at the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office Crime Laboratory, said he microscopically examined several hairs from the passenger side window frame and found a single hair that he said was from Hayes.

“I found one single hair, and it did correspond in microscopic characteristics to known hair from Tina Hayes,” Trimpe said. Under questioning from Hamilton County assistant prosecutor Ryan Nelson, Trimpe said, “Now, that doesn't mean that I can say that that hair had to come from that person and no other, because there can be people with the same microscopic characteristics.” However, he added, “In all of my years looking at hairs, I’ve had one case where I couldn’t tell the difference between two people, and they were an Asian brother and sister.”

Trimpe said all the characteristics of the hair recovered from the vehicle corresponded to Hayes’s hair.

“Did you also compare that sample to the characteristics found in Mr. Campbell's hair?” Nelson asked.

“Yes, and they did not correspond to his hair,” Trimpe said.

He said he examined several other hairs from the passenger seat and that three of those hairs corresponded to Hayes. He said that he also examined 12 hairs from the middle of the windshield, and none corresponded to either Campbell or Hayes. In addition, Trimpe said he examined seven hairs taken from the passenger side of the windshield and none corresponded to Campbell or Hayes.

Trimpe said he examined 12 hairs from the passenger side air bag and concluded that none of them came from Campbell or Hayes.

Trimpe also testified that he tested a pair of New Balance gym shoes to see if the brake pedal pad left an impression by pressing the shoes onto the brake. He said that no impression was created. He admitted he was never asked to analyze Hayes’s shoes, which were still on her feet after the crash, and he said he had no idea how long the hairs he said belonged to Hayes had been in the vehicle.

Trimpe said he collected a plastic armrest from the vehicle and was told to look for dark fibers because Hayes had been wearing a dark sweater. He said he found blue cotton fibers, but was unable to say that the fibers were the same as the fibers on Hayes’s clothing because Hayes’s clothing was no longer available—it had been returned to Hayes’s mother immediately after the crash. Trimpe acknowledged that the fibers appeared to have been in the armrest for a long period of time because they were “fused” into the armrest.

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Corporal Brian Shepherd testified as an expert in accident reconstruction. He said that he photographed the scene, took measurements and developed a theory of how the crash occurred. He said that based on his analysis, Campbell was driving. He said he found a pair of men’s gym shoes when he opened the driver’s door. He said the glove box had been damaged by Hayes’s knee.

Shepherd pried off the glove box door with a crowbar and sent it to the lab for DNA analysis, which showed that Hayes’s DNA was on the glove box door. He testified that Hayes was wearing a navy-blue sweater and Campbell had no knee injuries.

Shepherd said that the vehicle started rotating around left to right and that as it disengaged from the church wall after impact, the vehicle went into a counterclockwise rotation. He said that as a result, the driver went toward the passenger side of the vehicle and was ejected through that side of the windshield.

Shepherd said he investigated the point of impact several days after the crash, at a time when some of the building may have already been repaired. He also testified that he listened to recordings of Campbell’s phone calls made from the Hamilton County Jail. Shepherd said that during the calls, Campbell never admitted being the driver. Instead, he said that Hayes had dropped a cigarette and when she reached over to pick it up, she stepped on the accelerator and lost control.

Shepherd said one reason Hayes was excluded as the driver was because she did not have any injuries that corresponded to the bent steering wheel and Campbell did not have any knee injury produced by the glove box. He admitted he did not know how hard someone would have to hit the windshield to be ejected. He said the dark fibers found in the passenger side armrest had not been connected to any piece of clothing, though he conceded that Campbell was wearing a black cotton t-shirt. Shepherd said he was aware that Hayes had been involved in two separate accidents with the same vehicle.

John Pflum testified for the defense as an expert in accident reconstruction. He said that after going to the scene, reviewing evidence recovered, the coroner’s report, the police reports and calculations made by Shepherd, it was impossible to conclude who the driver was. There was no mark left by a steering wheel, seat/shoulder belt, blood or fingerprint evidence that would conclusively point to someone as the driver, Pflum said.

He said he was unable to offer an expert opinion with a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. He said that Hayes or Campbell could have sustained their injuries under different scenarios, and he did not believe this was a situation that could meet a high level of proof that Campbell was the driver. He told the jury that it was equally possible for Campbell to be a passenger or the driver. Pflum also said the state’s reconstruction evidence was not scientifically credible.

Mark Slaughter, a videographer from a local television news department, testified that he shot footage of the accident and arrived between 12:15 and 12:30 a.m. The video did not show any shoes on the driver’s side of the car as Corporal Viner, the first officer on the scene, had claimed.

Pamela Holt, Hayes’s mother, testified that two days after the accident she went to the Sheriff’s office to retrieve a camera from the wreckage. She said she noted that the driver’s seat was in its usual position—pulled far forward to allow Hayes to reach the accelerator and brake pedals. Holt said that the passenger seat was pushed farther back. She told the jury that while she was there, Shepherd used a crowbar to pry the glove box open to help search for her daughter’s property. Holt said the glove box was not dented prior to it being pried off.

On October 22, 2009, the jury convicted Campbell of three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He was acquitted of failing to obey a police officer. Judge Ralph Winker sentenced him to 28 years in prison.

Campbell’s appeals were unsuccessful, except for a remand to the trial court in 2012 to correct a sentencing error. Campbell was resentenced to 20 years in prison.

In January 2014, attorneys Kort Gatterdam and Erik Henry filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate Campbell’s convictions. The petition said that the defense had failed to use autopsy photographs as well as some of the photographs taken at the scene to contradict the prosecution’s case.

The petition said that the prosecution had not provided and the defense attorney at trial had not sought the autopsy photographs. The photographs, which by then had been reviewed by Campbell’s attorneys, showed injuries (bruising) to the left side of Hayes’s chest, neck and shoulder. The photos impeached Corporal Shepherd and the coroner by showing how Hayes had injuries to the left side of her chest to indicate she was the driver, the petition said. Campbell, the petition noted, had no such injuries.

The petition also noted that during the trial, when the defense attorney asked about the autopsy photographs, the trial judge said the photos would not be allowed—the photos “would only have made the trial last longer,” the petition said.

The petition said that during closing argument, the prosecution said Hayes wore a navy-blue sweater, and that fibers consistent with this sweater were removed from the passenger door. However, photographs taken at the scene and the coroner’s report showed that Hayes was wearing a black jacket and there was no testimony that any fibers were linked to any of Hayes’s clothing, the petition said.

In addition, the prosecutor “elicited false testimony from Corporal Shepherd about the jacket when Shepherd testified the jacket’s color was blue, when in fact Shepherd was the one who took the photograph…showing a black jacket."

The petition also said that the prosecution said a rearview mirror was in the grass next to Campbell immediately after the accident and that this evidence showed that Campbell had been on the driver’s side before he was ejected through the passenger side of the windshield. However, the petition said, the defense had discovered a photograph taken at the impound lot where the vehicle was taken after the crash that showed the rearview mirror still attached to the windshield.

In December 2014, U.S. Magistrate Michael Merz granted a defense motion for production of time-stamped crash scene photographs as well as all of the autopsy photographs. In October 2016, the federal habeas case was held in abeyance while Campbell’s legal team returned to Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.

In February 2017, Campbell filed a motion seeking permission to file a motion for new trial. Judge Charles Kubicki Jr. denied the motion. Campbell appealed and in May 2019, the Ohio Court of Appeals, First District Appellate District, reversed and ordered a hearing on whether the motion for a new trial should be filed. The case was assigned to Judge Jody Luebbers, who in February 2020 granted permission to file the motion.

The motion cited a report from Jack Holland, a retired Ohio State Highway Patrolman and an accident reconstruction expert. The defense retained Holland to re-investigate the case and he concluded that Hayes—not Campbell—was driving the Explorer. Holland concluded that Shepherd’s testimony contained “numerous seriously flawed analyses of the physical evidence and the physical forces acting on the 2004 Ford Explorer and its occupants, including regarding the principal direction of force, kinematics, the time for the occupants to travel across the sidewalk into the brick wall, the impact, the injuries to Tina Hayes, the absence of certain injuries to Mr. Campbell, [and] the rotation of the 2004 Ford Explorer.”

Holland also determined that the shoes found between the left front seat and the left front door were not good indicators of who was driving. Holland said that he had never seen an occupant ejection so dynamic that it would remove the occupant from their shoes.

Holland said the cross-examination of Shepherd was “insufficient and ineffective.” He concluded that Campbell’s trial defense attorney failed “to recognize and seize upon the critical flaws in Shepherd’s testimony regarding the vehicle’s approach to the impact area and the elevation of the area of impact.”

Also, Holland said the trial defense attorney did not pursue other evidence that would have improved the defense such as the position of the driver’s seat (moved far forward so that Hayes could reach the gas and brake pedals), that Campbell had a set of keys in his pocket, a lack of in-depth examination of the blood evidence, and the position of Hayes after the impact.

The motion said that the prosecution and defense agreed to have another accident reconstruction expert, Jen Hickok, examine the evidence. Hickok also concluded that Hayes was driving and Campbell was the passenger.

The motion said that time-stamped crime scene photos showed that the photograph of the shoes was taken at 12:34 a.m. The television news footage was shot between 12:15 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. and showed no shoes visible. The motion said that the shoes had been placed on the driver’s intentionally by police and testimony that the shoes were found there initially was false.

The motion also said that other photos confirmed that marks on Hayes’s knees were caused by the straps attached to the medical board used to remove her from the wreckage—and not from the glove box as Shepherd asserted.

The photos also showed no blood on the glove box faceplate. The motion contended that the blood got on the faceplate when Shepherd pried it off in the impound lot and laid it on the front seat, which had a significant amount of blood on it.

The motion said that an examination of the photos raised serious questions about the handling of the evidence and “the truth of the State’s witnesses” about the evidence. Photos timestamped on October 3, for example, showed no bumper on the front of the vehicle. Photos from October 5—two days later—showed the vehicle with the bumper intact.

“Are all of these time-stamps accurate?” the motion asked. “Are some accurate, but others are not? Can Corporal Shepherd’s testimony regarding the time-stamp still be considered credible? Did Detective Mulholland process the scene on October 2nd, 3rd, or 5th?”

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and assistant prosecutor Ryan Nelson, who prosecuted Campbell, agreed to the granting of a new trial based on the findings of Holland and Hickok. On February 12, 2020, Campbell’s convictions were vacated. He was released on bond pending a retrial, more than 11 years since he was first arrested.

"We agree that there are some issues with this case, so, quite frankly, when it comes to our attention that there may be a problem with the case, there may be an issue with the integrity of the conviction, we don't want to be any part of that whatsoever," said Julie Wilson, a spokesperson for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Subsequently, the prosecution and defense submitted the evidence directly to Judge Luebbers for a retrial without a jury. On June 4, 2020, Judge Luebbers acquitted Campbell.

Campbell's attorney Kort Gatterdam credited the prosecution for agreeing to the new trial. "I think they were duped by their expert so they helped facilitate this,” Gatterdam said.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 11/9/2020
Last Updated: 11/9/2020
State:Ohio
County:Hamilton
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:Traffic Offense
Reported Crime Date:2008
Convicted:2009
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:28 years
Race/Ethnicity:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:38
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No