Cover Story: If the Shoe Doesn't Fit...

(Saving Jerome Campbell's life)

Cover by Sean Hughes

If you're lucky enough, once in a lifetime you get to play the hero, sweep in and rescue the distressed damsel whose foot fits the glass slipper, and live happily ever after.

Playing the reluctant hero's role, Leslie Blade reported the story of Jerome Campbell, an Over-the-Rhine man convicted and sentenced for the 1988 Christmas Eve stabbing death of 78-year old John Henry Turner (see "Bloody Shoes and Snitches," issue of April 9-15, 2003). Anything but a fairy tale, Blade uncovered a series of mistakes made by the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office and Cincinnati Police in their quest to solve this homicide. One of the issues in question were drops of blood found on Campbell's gym shoes and bloody footprints found at the scene of the crime.

After questioning a witness in the neighborhood, police suspected Campbell of the brutal stabbing. Six days after the murder, police searched his home and arrested him on an unrelated matter. During the search, police seized a bag of Campbell's clothing items that included the blood-stained shoes. According to testimony given by Campbell at the time, the blood dripped on his shoes after he'd cut his finger.

DNA analysis conducted by the state in the summer of 2002, however, would prove that Campbell was telling the truth all along. In addition to the bloodstains not matching the victim's blood, the bloody footprints found at the scene of the crime weren't a match either.

Though mentioned in a pre-trial hearing, the issue of the non-matching footprints miraculously disappeared from the case altogether. The fact that Campbell's shoes were blood-stained, regardless of whose blood it happened to be, was the crux of the prosecutor's argument.

Upon this argument, coupled with trumped-up testimony from two jailhouse snitches, Campbell was convicted of one count of aggravated murder and two counts of aggravated burglary. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

After the CityBeat story ran, a groundswell of support for Campbell grew throughout the community. In fact, based on questionable handling of this case by the prosecutor's office, the Ohio Adult Parole Board held a hearing and recommended that Campbell's death sentence be commuted — the first time since Ohio reinstated the death penalty in 1981 that the board called for clemency.

Gov. Bob Taft agreed with the board's findings and spared Campbell's life. He did not, however, exonerate Campbell completely. In exchange for overturning the death sentence, Taft commuted Campbell's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Blade reports that Campbell recently asked her to provide an affidavit of how she obtained bond information on one of the jailhouse informants who testified against him. In a deal worked out with the prosecutor's office in exchange for his testimony, the informant was released two weeks prior to Campbell's trial on his own recognizance. This information hadn't been provided to Campbell's attorneys during his trial.

And on a semi-brighter note, Blade says the Discovery Channel picked up on Campbell's story and is filming a segment that re-creates his experience for their new show, Reasonable Doubt.

"And guess what?" Blade says excitedly, "I'm in it. Hopefully, this will give Jerome more exposure."

As for Campbell, he's still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Literally. ©

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