The state of Ohio killed Robert Buell on September 25. The mainstream mass media made sure that everyone knew that Buell was sentenced to death for the sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Krista Harrison. During Buell’s eighteen years on death row, he was unsuccessful, with few exceptions, in getting out the facts of his case.

In January 1995, the Columbus Free Press uncovered a State Highway Patrol report authored by Marc Rogols documenting that investigators from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office (OPDO) were falsifying records on a fifteen or so death row inmates. Chester “Briss” Craig, a former supervisor at the OPDO, told the Free Press that Buell had probably been denied a proper investigation of his claims of innocence. Buell maintained that he did not kill Harrison.

In January 1992, Craig filed a complaint with the Ohio Inspector General’s Office that said: “Some of our investigators previously assigned to Ohio Public Defender’s clients before they were convicted had not met with or conducted any kind of investigation on behalf of these clients.”

Craig also complained that: “Many of these clients, mostly black, indicated they had never heard the name of the investigator mentioned and that they had never met with such person. Such information led me to believe that some of the investigators were turning in false time reports and were not providing the support services to the attorneys as required.” Craig told the Free Press, the investigators at the OPDO referred to Buell and other death row inmates as “scumbags” or “niggers.”

Rogols report provides evidence of both expense account and investigatory fraud by state Public Defenders investigators. Rogols also noted that shredding and destruction of documents was ongoing at the OPDO during his investigation. On October 3, 1992, the Ohio Public Defender Randall Dana resigned citing “burnout” as did most of the top administrators at the OPDO. Two former public defenders named in Rogols report, William Buxton and Gary Blankenship, pleaded guilty to first-degree misdemeanor theft charges.

In addition to the falsified investigation records, various other troubling issues emerged in the Buell case. The only real attempt to deal with these matters appeared in Donna J. Robb’s September 10 Cleveland Plain Dealer article. Robb recounts how Wayne County prosecutors Martin Franz and Keith Shearer “failed to reveal a witness statement that shattered their theory that Buell left his job in Akron on the afternoon of July 23, 1982 to dispose of the girl’s body.” Prosecutors are legally required to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense.

The witness had informed police that at 11:30 that morning he saw men’s clothing strewn on the road and flattened grass near the spot that the body was dumped. Other evidence establishes that Buell was miles away at his job at the time. The state’s theory of the case centers around Buell leaving his job in Akron later in the afternoon to dispose of Harrison’s body. Some suggest Buell was an easy target because he had been convicted of raping two women the year before.

“The jury never heard from that witness because his written statement was not shown to Buell and his attorney – until ten years later,” Robb wrote. At the time of the outrageous scandal at the OPDO in the early 90s, Robb reports that “a legal intern working for Buell at the state Public Defender’s Office filed a records request with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office seeking all documents relating to the Buell investigation. The intern received the witness statement, but nothing had been done with it until now.”

Thus, Craig’s claim that Buell had been denied due process and a proper investigation, as originally reported in the Free Press, was beginning to come to light fifteen days prior to his execution.

Robb contacted the Free Press regarding the Rogols report and requested a copy of the article Justice Denied. Suddenly, Robb was yanked off the story. Martin Yant, a former Dispatch editor and now a private investigator, told the Free Press that Plain Dealer reporter Ted Wendling went over Robb and her editor’s head to have her removed from the story. Yant alleged that Wendling was responding to complaints from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Yant claims he has documentation proving that one of Buell’s two attorneys, hired by the OPDO, “deserted him during the crucial appeals process and another . . . filed his appeal ten days too late with the U.S. Supreme Court.” Yant read portions of letters reportedly from Buell’s attorney which documented these claims. He told the Free Press he plans to write about the issue.

Robb had also revealed “that three witnesses who testified against Buell had been hypnotized by police detectives trying to enhance the witness’ memories. Hypnotically refreshing witness’ memories is now illegal under Ohio law. Buell’s attorney Patricia Millhoff told the Plain Dealer that “The hypnosis sessions had been taped, but the tapes mysteriously disappeared before trial.”

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