Sunday, February 06, 2011

Justice must be served to keep Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen free

The following editorial was published by the Lisbon, Ohio Morning Journal on February 6, 2011.

Efforts are under way on several levels to keep Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen from being sent back to prison. Those efforts need to continue until both get their lives back.

On Monday, defense attorney Jack Bradley and Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge intend to file motions asking the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling that overturned Burge’s acquittals of Smith and Allen.

In 1994, the two were found guilty of taking several young children who rode Smith’s Head Start bus to Allen’s Lorain home and sexually abusing them and received long sentences.

After a minor error in a sentencing entry sent the pair to Burge’s courtroom in 2009, rather than correct the error, Burge acquitted them, stating he believed they were innocent. Last month, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Burge lacked jurisdiction to do so and ordered the judge to restore their original prison sentences.

Bradley said since the Ohio Supreme Court recently issued an opinion on another case, State v. Ross, in which it determined it was unconstitutional to overturn an acquittal, he feels the high court has an obligation to clarify why it is overturning Burge’s acquittal of Smith and Allen.

The Ohio Innocence Project, part of the Innocence Network, is also continuing to lend support. The Ohio group sent a 2007 letter to the Ohio Parole Board stating there was an overwhelmingly amount of evidence indicating both were innocent.

The letter cited affidavits from school aides who rode with Smith on the week of the alleged crimes saying no inappropriate conduct occurred. The letter also said the children were “subject to questionable and coercive investigative tactics” that hindered Smith’s ability to “have an adequate defense and a fair trial.”

Smith and Allen were unjustly prosecuted, wrongly convicted and forced to serve 15 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Now, unless the Ohio Supreme Court reverse its own ruling, it appears it will be the first high court in American history to send two people who have been found innocent back to prison.

Supporters of Smith and Allen are ready to take their plight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whatever it takes, justice will be done only when Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen are cleared and allowed to remain free.

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