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tv   Death Row Stories  CNN  February 5, 2017 8:00pm-9:01pm PST

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to answer for that one day. may not be here, but they'll have to answer for it. on this episode of "death row stories" -- a terrifying crime. >> the victim was so innocent. >> a condemned man fights for his life. >> no matter how much i begged, no one listens to a convicted murderer. >> until a passionate priest helps dig for the uth. >> my heart just dropped into the pit of my stomach, and i'm thinking, what else is here? it's the biggest smoke-screen i've ever seen in my life. >> there's a body in the water. >> he was butchered and murdered. >> many people proclaim their innocence. >> in this case there are a
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number of things that stink. >> this man is remorseless. >> he needs to pay for it with his life. >> the electric chair flashed in front of my eyes. >> get a conviction at all costs. let the truth fall where it may. cleveland is like a big small town. we have like one of everything you need. literally has the houses like stacked on top of each other so close. and it seems like everybody knows somebody that knows somebody. so for this to happen in little italy it was a horrible crime in the sense it is a night nit community where things don't happen like that. >> at 1:30 on saturday september 24th, 1988, a jogger noticed
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something floating in doan creek, a narrow waterway that twists through rockefeller park in cleveland, ohio. >> the case began when a jogger found the body of this poor young victim. two other detectives handled the scene, took a bunch of photographs, made a short report. >> detectives noticed immediately that the victim's neck was sliced open from ear to ear. the victim, a young male who appeared to be in his early 20s, also had three stab wounds in his chest and small cuts to his wrist and elbow. he was wearing no shoes and the only thing on him was $7, found in his pocket. no weapons or blood were found at the scene. >> the young man remained unidentified because he had no identification on him. >> with no leads, police were baffled by the case. until two days after the body was found when they received a mysterious phone call from a man who claimed to have knowledge of
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the crime. police asked if the caller could come in to help i.d. the body. that morning, homicide detective leo allen was at the morgue working on another case. >> i got notified by the morgue personnel that a man was there who thought he could identify the young man that was found on saturday. and that's how we got started. >> the man who came to the morgue was paul lewis, widely known by his nickname stoney, apparently because of his affinity for being high. stoney identified the victim as his upstairs neighbor, tony klann. >> tony klann was 19. only a year earlier he had left home. his father told me that he had written a note in which he said "i emancipate myself." this was a young man searching for his identity. >> stoney lewis had last seen
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tony on friday night drinking at a bar called coconut joe's. tony was with three co-workers, mike keenan, 39, owner of a local business called sunshine landscaping, eddie espinoza, 26, the company's foreman, and another part-time employee. 27-year-old joe d'ambrosio. stoney lewis said that before he left the bar he saw a series of heated arguments between tony and eddie espinoza, with espinoza pushing tony around and threatening him. according to stoney, that was just the beginning. >> a couple witnesses were sleeping at 3:00 friday night, early saturday morning. and they were awakened by loud noises, yelling. and they saw joe, mike and eddie banging on doors, looking for paul lewis. and they had tony klann in the truck. >> apparently, mike keenan, eddie espinoza, and joe
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d'ambrosio, were convinced stoney lewis had stolen drugs from them. and they were forcing tony klann to lead them to stoney. >> tony had been crying. he looked like he had been beat a little bit. and they s joe d'ambrosio with a knife to his throat. this was at 3:00 in the morning. >> stoney lewis's story was all detectives needed to hear. >> we went up into cleveland heights and took five cleveland heights policemen with us. and we went to joe d'ambrosio's apartment. 1732 coventry road. >> eddie espinoza answered the door and was placed under arrest. next police searched for joe. >> first thing in the morning, the cops break in. i'm all the way in the back in the bathroom sitting on the toilet. all i see is the door fling open and i see two guys in plain clothes with guns pointing at me. and i'm like, what the heck is
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this? >> even without a warrant, police search joe's apartment. >> we did recover three large knives and several other smaller items. some clothing. and we confiscated all kinds of stuff that we found there. >> a black pickup truck later determined to belong to mike keenan, was parked in the driveway and impounded by police. mike keenan was arrested the following day. from there, things moved fast. at the station, eddie espinoza immediately began talking. >> eddie espinoza told a story about mike keenan and joe d'ambrosio forcing tony klann into mike keenan's pickup truck. they went around looking for stoney lewis. stoney lewis couldn't be found. and evidently in frustration decided to kill tony klann. >> eddie's story is that they drove down by doan creek. mike keenan, the driver, got out
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of the truck and was standing behind anthony telling him, where is stoney? where's stoney? and he kept saying i don't know where he is. keenan says put your head back. and that's when he come out with an 11-inch hunting knife and slit his throat. pushed him into the creek and told joe d'ambrosio, finish the job. >> at this point, espinoza said he heard tony screaming for mercy, crying out, "please don't kill me." >> joe grabbed the knife, jumped into the creek and put three big holes in that boy's chest. and killed him. that's eddie espinoza's story. my partner and i both felt that this man was telling us the truth. >> based mainly on espinoza's account, police charged mike keenan and joe d'ambrosio with aggravated murder. each would face the death
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penalty. joe's court-appointed lawyer convinced him to waive his right to a jury trial. >> i haven't a clue of the law. so whatever they said, i did. >> the prosecution was handled by a tough veteran litigator named carmen marino. >> on this case from my standpoint it was a job well done by the police officers. they investigated a good case and brought in good witnesses. there was nothing in this case that i had to do that the police didn't already do. that's rare. >> at trial, the state's case hinged on eddie espinoza's eyewitness account of the murder and the testimony of stoney lewis. to defend himself, joe took the stand. but his only alibi was that he was home alone sleeping. >> the prosecutor just tore me apart. you know. my attorneys did absolutely nothing and that was it.
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the case was over. they found me guilty of this crime. >> joe was sentenced to death. >> my trial was the shortest death penalty trial in ohio's history. 2 3/4 days. from let's start to you die. that's how fast it was. >> mike keenan also received the death penalty. eddie espinoza got 15 years. in march 1989, joe d'ambrosio arrived on death row at lucasville prison in southern ohio. he maintained his innocence. >> it's a nightmare. it's got to be a nightmare. and i have to wake up. i really, really do. and you don't wake up. and it just goes on. no matter who i ote and how much i begged. no one listens to a convicted murderer. they all say they didn't do it. in the fall of 1998, ten
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years after joe d'ambrosio was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, his mother passed away. without a scratch.walked awy maybe it was the day your baby came home. or maybe the day you realized your baby was not a baby anymore. every subaru is built to earn your trust. because we know what you're trusting us with. subaru. kelley blue book's most trusted brand. and best overall brand. love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru. (i wanted him to eat healthy., so i feed jake purina cat chow naturals indoor, a nutritious formula with no artificial flavors. made specifically for indoor cats. purina cat chow. nutrition to build better lives. previously treated withd platinum-based chemotherapy, including those with an abnormal alk
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in the fall of 1998, ten years after joe d'ambrosio was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, his mother passed away. joe was not allowed to leave
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death row. so a catholic priest and former lawyer named neil kookoothe decided to attend her funeral on joe's behalf. >> i asked the corrections officers, would you let me talk with joe for just a few minutes so that i can walk him through his mother's funeral. and while joe was very appreciative of it, it was obvious that my goal for that meeting and his goal were not the same. >> i'm like, oh, man. a real human being i can talk to. i need help. nobody will help me. i didn't do this. >> and i was very resistant to doing that. i knew that these death row cases were immense cases. 5, 10, 15 volumes long. >> i'm like no, it's one volume big. that's all it is. >> one volume? >> that's where the attorney of him kicked in. >> i was just stunned that a man could be brought to trial for his life and be convicted in the amount of space it took to
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record that event was in one volume. so i thought, whoa. something is not right. >> in addition to being a priest and a lawyer, neil was a registered nurse with 15 years experience in critical care. >> it's one of those like if you're a believer it's a god moment. a priest who was an r.n. and an attorney. where did that come from? and he shows up right at joe's cell. >> the thing that struck me right away was the coroner's testimony. anthony klann had sustained a very significant and deep neck wound from ear to ear. that neck wound opened up two large holes in anthony's trachea. >> but at trial state eyewitness eddie espinoza claimed he heard tony klann scream for mercy after his throat had been slit. >> i worked with trachea patients every day. so i knew if you could find the
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hole in your trachea, you could plug it perhaps, you might be able to make noise. it might sound something like this. so there is no way that anthony klann could be running down a creek bed trying to plug two holes in his trachea so he can scream for his life. >> after visiting the crime scene, father neil had other suspicions about espinoza's testimony. >> joe supposedly grabs the knife and goes after anthony in the creek bed, stabbing him. and yet there were no tire tracks or anything on the side of the creek. and so i thought, whoa, something's not right here. >> neil believed espinoza had to be lying. but a witness who was lying did not necessarily mean joe was telling the truth. neil needed to know more about joe's background. >> joe's father died when he was
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17 years old. joe is the only boy in the family. so his father's death was very traumatic for him. >> i had to become the breadwinner. and as soon as i graduated i went right into the military. i was what they call a shade tree mechanic. i worked on everything from a jeep all the way up to a 35,000 kw generator that used to launch missiles. i loved it. >> joe worked his way up to sergeant and was honorably discharged. but when he returned to the distressed economy of 1980s rust belt cleveland, joe couldn't find work. >> he thought he was a certified mechanic. i don't know what certification is in the military. but people were telling him, you're not a certified mechanic. >> in the spring of 1988, joe
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moved into a basement apartment near little italy. >> he lived in the coventry area which at the time was something a lot of 20-somethings did. they were blue-collar workers and they partied a lot. >> i was not an angel. i drank. i drank like a fish. >> right across the street from where i was living was a bar called the saloon. and i was in there throwing darts one day and ed espinoza, the foreman for mike keenan, came in and threw out a general question, who needs a job? and he hired me as a landscaper plus home repair work. i started work the next day, september 1st. september 26th, i'm sitting in jail. >> in contrast to joe's story, neil discovered that the man who put joe on death row, eddie espinoza, had a very checkered past. >> eddie espinoza was someone who in court admitted that he
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was an alcoholic. also a drug abuser, a welfare he was someone who was known to drink a 12-pack of beer, would follow that up with snorting cocaine and then follow that up with tequila shots. but eddie espinoza had agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. and so his story became the prevailing narrative. >> there is absolutely no motive here that would impel joe d'ambrosio to inflict harm upon anthony klann. >> given what he had learned so far, neil was feeling that something had gone terribly wrong in the police investigation of tony klann's murder. >> stoney lewis points his fingers and they stop focusing on any other person or any other circumstances that might literally take them away from their case solved.
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>> remember, they had this crime solved, according to them, within a day. and so the investigation was only to gather evidence to support a theory that they already had. >> but if joe was indeed an innocent man on death row, neil would have to figure out how to prove it. hiding the bag because he would try to put his face in it all day. yeah you love it, don't you? you love it so much! i feel like when he eats beneful, he kinda turns into a puppy again. it's protein. it's vegetables. it's grains. i mean, like that sounds like a dinner i'd make for myself, right? (riley) hey it's a big bag. just have some of mine. (vo) try beneful healthy weight with chicken. with real chicken as the number one ingredient. healthful. flavorful. beneful. ...one of many pieces in my life. so when my asthma symptoms kept coming back on my long-term ntrolmedicine. i talked to my doctor and found a missing piece in my asthma treatment with breo. once-daily breo prevents asthma symptoms. breo is for adults with asthma not well controlled
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[ alarm weather.eping ] ♪ [ laughter ] cartoons. wait for it. [ cat screech ] [ laughter ] ♪ [ screaming ] [ laughter ] make everyday awesome with the power of xfinity x1... hi grandma! and the fastest internet. [ girl screaming ] [ laughter ] i was so angry when i got locked up. i couldn't understand how this
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could happen. i must have been angry for months. and then, one day, i was like, you know what? i'm sick and tired of this. i have to start learning the law. because i knew if i went back for a retrial i could prove that i didn't do this. >> as father neil kookoothe looked into joe d'ambrosio's case, he became suspicious that prosecutors had not told joe's defense team everything they knew about the murder of tony klann. >> i felt from the neck wound to the scene at the crime, it seemed like at every other turn there was more that was being discovered. >> neil was also shocked to learn that in 1988 ohio law did not require the state authorities to share all their evidence with defendants. >> what would happen back in those days is that the prosecutor would look at their files and they would determine what to hand over or to reveal
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to the defense attorneys and that's what they would get. >> the sixth amendment protects your right to an attorney. the right is no good if your attorney doesn't have the information. >> in addition to ohio's draconian discovery laws, neil would also learn that the prosecutor in joe's case, carmen marino, had his own controversial reputation. >> with carmen marino there are ten cases where he had been reprimanded by the courts. i summarized it as cheating to win. get a conviction at all costs seemed to be the approach. and let the truth fall where it may. >> in fact, in the tony klann murder case marino was cited by the ohio supreme court for prosecutorial misconduct in the trial of joe's co-defendant, mike keenan. >> i gave a good closing argument. and i ended by taking this big bowie knife and stabbing it in the evidence desk. that's the prosecutorial misconduct tt was alleged. and my argument is you're
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criticizing me for stabbing this knife in the desk when that was the knife that slashed this kid's throat when they murdered him. i said you think that's the balance that should overturn the case? well, it was. >> because of marino's antics, mike keenan received a new trial. but once again he was convicted and received a death sentence. by 2001 joe d'ambrosio had been on death row for over 12 years. his state appeals had all been rejected. his execution could come at any time. >> our legal system is just designed to make it very, very difficult to prove that someone didn't commit a crime after they've already been convicted. you're talking the most uphill of uphill battles. >> father neil was desperate to help prove joe's innocence.
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but in order to get a new trial they had to find new evidence. so neil took a new approach. >> i thought, one of the things i need to do to get help is media attention. one of the first media outlets that i got was "the cleveland scene" magazine. >> neil kookoothe came into the office a couple weeks after i joined the staff. neil didn't oversell what he believed to be joe's case of actual innocence. he came to me with pieces of the case that he felt were questionable. >> kuz interviewed dozens of witnesses and discovered pieces of evidence that joe's defense didn't have at trial. >> i got in touch with the two detectives who first responded to this case and confirmed my instinct that there was more to the story than had previously been told. the human body holds eight to ten pints of blood. when tony's body was found, he had two pints of blood left. yet there was no blood or forensic evidence of any kind
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along the river bank. based in part on that, the two detectives were adamant that tony klann had been murdered elsewhere, not at the river bank as eddie espinoza had claimed. if the location of the murder is different from what the key prosecution witness is claiming, that's a pretty big discrepancy. but the lead detective on the case, leo allen, did not visit the river bank until four or five days after the murder. >> we're involved in other cases. not the only case we have. my goodness. we've got all kinds of work to do. so there was no reason for my partner and i to actually go back there to see what we could see. but we did go back there just to see where the heck it happened. >> the two original detectives were never called to testify at joe's trial. >> the prosecutor suggested a defense trial counsel that they didn't need to talk to anybody
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else except detective allen, which is pretty suspicious conduct, trying to keep the views of the officers first on the scene away from defense counsel. >> kuz also reported about the lack of physical evidence in the case. >> you had no forensic evidence, blood, tissue, hair on the knife that was supposedly used that killed tony klann. you had no blood that was found in the pickup truck. you had no blood on mike keenan's clothes or joe d'ambrosio's clothes. that's a lot of question marks. >> kuz's article also highlighted a discrepancy in eddie espinoza's story about which night the murder took place. >> there were question marks about when the murder occurred, whether it was thursday night or friday night. tony klann had been with mike keenan and joe d'ambrosio for a
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short time. a manager from coconut joe's had told me he remembered those guys being there thursday night, when the bar held its tequila shot night. but not on friday night. >> but late friday night was when the state had argued the murder took place. >> there's evidence and testimony that they're all drinking thursday night. and the state tried to take two days and put them into one. >> how can you, based on that information, convicted two men and sentence them to die? >> kuz's article was a turning point in joe's case. >> it was the seminal story that began to unravel things and to cause people to look deeper. >> but the most explosive bombshell would come from kuz's conversation with tony klann's father, richard. someone the police had neglected to thoroughly interview. >> he shared something with me that i heard no one else mention. encouragement and milk. with 8 grams of natural protein, and 8 other nutrients to provide balanced nutrition. moms know kids grow strong when they milk life.
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as journalist martin kuz was researching his article about death row inmate joe d'ambrosio, he was finally able to make contact with the murder victim's father, richard. >> richard and i spoke on the phone. and it was a long conversation. by the time we actually finished i was the last person in the office. >> richard klann gave kuz a fuller portrait of his son, tony, who along with his sister
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had been adopted. >> they had been into foster homes a couple of times. and so we did everything we could to help the kids be comfortable and safe where we lived. >> growing up, a learning disability had made things difficult for tony. >> because of all the teasing and the other things that went on in his early life, he didn't fit in real well. >> tony barely finished high school. but in late august 1988 he told his dad he wanted to start a lawnmowing business. >> i was going to help him with that. i was going to help him get a truck. well, he never called me that weekend. and i found out on monday that he had been killed on friday. it was the coldest day of my life. >> as we covered all of this ground, he shared something with me that i had heard no one else
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mention. he said that tony klann had told him, richard, that he had witnessed a rape in the apartment building where he lived. >> i understood that there was going to be a trial and tony was going to be a witness for that. >> after we hung up, i felt like i needed to share that information with neil. >> martin told me that. and i went down to the justice center. i pulled anthony klann's file. and i discovered that he indeed had witnessed a rape and that the rape victim was a young man by the name of christopher longenecker. you don't really hear about male on male rape all that often. and to me that suggests a whole other degree of violence. but then it went a step further because it was that the man who had been arrested for the rape was stoney lewis. >> the same stoney lewis who had first tipped off police that
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joe, keenan and espinoza might be the ones responsible for tony's murder. >> my heart just dropped into the pit of my stomach. and i'm thinking, oh, my god, the deceased in this case has witnessed a rape. and the rapist is the man who's pointing his finger at other men. >> but if neil was able to connect these two cases in an afternoon, why hadn't police and prosecutors done the same? >> the prosecutor of joe's case was carmen marino. and it turned out that the prosecutor of the rape case was carmen marino. at the same time. so it doesn't take too much to ask that you put two and two together. >> yeah, i didn't see any connection. who would murder him for what reason? contrary to what you may hear, it is truly extraordinary that someone would murder another witness to keep them from testifying.
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>> but to joe d'ambrosio's defense team it seemed very connected. >> tony klann was the only eyewitness that was called by either side for that trial. the only eyewitness suddenly ends up killed and the case goes away. to us, that was a far better motive and opportunity than the prosecution had theorized. >> in order to prove their theory, joe's team would need to interview the alleged rape victim. but chris longenecker had vanished without a trace. the new discoveries in joe's case caught the attention of one of the most prominent law firms in town, jones day, which agreed to fight for joe on a pro bono basis. >> it was like night and day. it went from i have two appeals left and then they're going to murder me to now i have neil and all these resources from the
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world's third largest law firm backing me up. >> armed with the fact that prosecutor carmen marino had withheld information, joe's team submitted a sweeping discovery request to the federal district court. >> to me it just seemed like a logical question. what else is in there? >> meanwhile, the alleged rape victim, the only person who could corroborate what tony klann had witnessed, was finally located living in florida. and it would be up to neil to convince him to testify. (vo) do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light. do not go gentle into that good night. ♪
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13 years after joe d'ambrosio had been sentenced to death, federal judge kathleen o'malley finally granted access to all police and prosecutor files related to his case. >> they turned over a stack of paper like a foot and a half thick. >> it was the first major judgment to go joe's way since he'd been convicted. >> the way to get a new trial was to show a constitutional violation had occurred. in other words, the failure to turn over exculpatory evidence, evidence that tended to prove he was innocent, would have mattered to a jury. >> i took every page and i went through line by line. >> some of the most compelling evidence concerns stoney lewis, including police reports about suspicious activity at stoney's
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apartment the morning tony klann was killed. >> the lady that lived next door to stoney heard a loud, violent argument on, get this, saturday morning. she called the police. they hid that from us. >> there's witness statements again in police and prosecutor files. i think it was an older couple said they heard someone say, "let's dump the body in the basement." >> joe and his lawyers believed that at the very least the withheld evidence provided reasonable doubt the crime could have happened differently than the state presented at trial in july 2004 joe's tm went before judge o'malley to obtain a new trial. >> we put up all our witnesses. the newly discovered people, the newly discovered evidence. >> by far the most powerful witness at the hearing was chris
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longenecker, stoney lewis's alleged rape victim, who had been found living in florida. neil convinced chris that his testimony could save joe's life. >> i wasn't able to do anything for tony because -- and so i figured, if i could help someone else, then i'll do that. >> chris, who is legally blind and was born with a physical disability on the left side of his body, was 22 years old and tony klann's roommate back in 1988. he told the court what happened one evening when he was hanging around with his downstairs neighbor, stoney lewis. >> we went back to his place to hang out. and decided to make something to eat, i guess. and he started pressing up against me and crap. and i was like, dude, what the hell are you doing? i told him i wasn't into that. and he was a little bit more
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threatening. he started pulling my hair and some hands-on stuff. and -- and that's how that happened. and there was some fear issues there from the fact he had a firearm in his apartment. and the whole time that i was being assaulted i told him, this is not consensual, this is rape. >> chris says just after the rape tony klann showed up at stoney's apartment. >> there was a knock at his door. it was tony klann. and then i left when tony left. because i figured that was my way out. i told him that paul lewis raped me. and sort of freaked out a little
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bit. and then i went to the police department and filed a report. >> soon after, stoney was arrested and indicted for reportedly raping chris. he spent a few weeks in jail before being released on bond. but when it was time for stoney's pretrial hearing, chris missed the court date. >> and i misread the court date, or memorized the wrong date. and so i called them. and that's when they told me that i was a day late. and that paul lewis went free. >> after tony's murder chris called the police and mentioned the connection to the earlier rape case. >> i never accused paul lewis of murdering tony klann. i just told someone of authority that all the people in both cases know one another. but i guess they paid no attention to that.
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>> when you hear chris longenecker tell the story about what happened to him and who paul lewis really is based on that event, then you start to imagine that this is a guy who could have orchestrated this type of crime. >> following the hearing, joe felt good about his chances of getting a new trial. but the decision would not come quickly. >> two years. judge o'malley took two years to rule. >> finally, in march 2006, the judge released her decision. >> she overturned my case. she granted me my retrial. what i wanted all along. i wanted my day in court. she said, look, no reasonable jury would have convicted him if it had heard this evidence.
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>> when that ruling finally comes out, i mean, such elation. and you know, the culmination of 15 years of pleading and searching for the truth. because joe always said, the evidence will prove that i didn't kill anthony klann. >> carmen marino, who retired in 2002, strongly disagreed with the decision. >> disappointment. you've got to understand, it's disappointment from the standpoint that those cases were well tried. in my considered opinion there is a very limited trial ability on many judges. they don't understand the full dynamics either of investigating a criminal case or trying a criminal trial. >> marino also disputed that he withheld evidence. >> we strictly followed the ohio law. if it was in my file, they saw it or heard it. in addition to what the law
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required us to give them. i gave them copies of everything they were entitled to. >> like marino, the state of ohio stood firm. >> and of course, after she gave it to me, they appealed it. so i had my retrial. but i couldn't go nowhere. >> the prosecutor's office began preparing for another trial. convinced they could reconvict joe and put him to death once and for all. without a scratch.y maybe it was the day your baby came home. or maybe the day you realized your baby was not a baby anymore. every subaru is built to earn your trust. because we know what you're trusting us with. subaru. kelley blue book's most trusted brand. and best overall brand. love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru.
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i mwell, what are youe to take care odoing tomorrow -10am? staff meeting. noon? eating. 3:45? uh, compliance training. 6:30? sam's baseball practice. 8:30? tai chi. yeah, so sounds relaxing. alright, 9:53? i usually make their lunches then, and i have a little vegan so wow, you are busy. wouldn't it be great if you had investments that worked as hard as you do? yeah. introducing essential portfolios. the automated investing solution that lets you focus on your life.
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by 2009, joe d'ambrosio's murder convinction had been overturned by a federal judge, but joe still sat on death row, waiting. >> the county prosecutor's office wanted to preserve a conviction, which is typical of prosecutor's offices, no matter what evidence you give them to the contrary, they're going to do everything to protect that conviction. >> in february 2009 pretrial
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hearings began. >> by the time the case landed in my courtroom, someone had been sitting on death row for over two decades. this is very serious. because of mistakes that were made, a process was flawed. all i wanted to do was make sure that the process was fair. >> but just days before the trial was to begin, prosecutors disclosed they had found additional evidence in their files. >> despite having a federal court order, in fact, there was physical evidence that had not been turned over to joe's trial counsel, not only in 1988, but in this particular proceeding itself. >> it was a circus, and i'm sitting out there watching it in total disbelief, total disbelief. >> the sudden release of new evidence would delay joe's retrial even more. so joe's attorneys petitioned the court for bail. >> the state of ohio staid it would be unheard of for a judge
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to let a man off of death row on bond, and i said i agree. he's not on death row. he stands convicted of nothing. and based on what seemed to be extensive community support, i sit a bail. >> you okay? >> yeah. >> the judge lets him out of bail on a $50,000 bond with a leg brace. that, to me, is the most appalling thing anyone could ever do. >> joe was released on house arrest. >> then he talks about what it feels like to be out. not at all? no comment. okay. >> for the first time in 20 years, joe would go to sleep someplace other than an 8 x 10 jail cell. >> prison is always noise, 24/7.
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never silent, never dark. for half my life. so to sit in utter silence is amazing. because that's what i used to do when i was at the house. i would turn off the lights and sit in silence for hours. ah. >> but there was still one more battle to go. as joe's retrial was finally about to start, news broke that eddie espinoza had died of liver failure. espinoza had served only 12 years in prison before being set fr. despite losing their star ess, e state asked the court to admit into evidence espinoza's testimony from 1988. >> i said no, because mr. d'ambrosio would not have had
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his toouconstitutional right to confront someone who's not there. i did not see any reason to admit evidence from years ago in a process that was already tainted. >> the state continued to pursue the case for seven more months, but without espinoza's testimony they had little against joe. finally, in march 2010, the judge dismissed all charges and ordered that joe be released from house arrest. >> joe d'ambrosio is free, and she exonerated him. look at his record. it's gone. >> and with that, the case is over. they can never put me back in jail for this. >> the original prosecution team was outraged with the court's decision. >> you know, some things just don't go the way they ought to in terms of equity and justice. the case hasn't changed in 25 years, it's not going to change. they're the guys who murdered this guy. >> it's the biggest smoke screen i've ever seen in my life.
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the judge is blind. >> after his exoneration, joe went to work as a maintenance man at neil's parish, the church of st. clarence in north olmstead, ohio. >> the church did absolutely nothing for me because i'm exonerated. they do nothing at all. they kick you out, get out. everything that i've fought for, for this country, was taken from me, every last single right, for dang near 80% of my life. >> joe knows he owes his freedom and his life to one man. >> go it weren't for neil, i would have been murdered ten years ago, easily, and the state wouldn't have batted an eye. >> it was just a matter of, i
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think, common human decency, and a matter of justice. >> i was astonished at how far wrong the system can go. and how slow it works. and how much is at stake. >> joe and neil traveled around ohio, speaking out against the death penalty. >> that i'm here is a blessing from god. i prayed for him to end this nightmare. i wanted it right then and there. but he answered my prayers. it just took 22 years, that's
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it just took 22 years, that's all. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com more maneuvering in the legal battle over the u.s. travel ban with arguments to be filed in the coming hours. >> meanwhile, families like this one from somalia are being reunited in the states while the travel ban has been temporarily suspended. >> plus the new england patriots win the super bowl. it's quarterback tom brady's record-breaking fifth nfl championship. thank you for joining us. >> "cnn newsroom" starts right now. the coming hours are crucial in the legal battle over u.s.

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