On Monday, November 25, Judge John A. Enlow of the Portage County Court of Common Pleas agreed that Mr. Noling’s request to DNA test additional pieces of critical evidence can be considered at his December 19th hearing.
This decision allows Mr. Noling to ask the court to test the following critical pieces of evidence, in addition to the cigarette butt found at the crime scene: (1) shell casings collected from the Hartigs’ kitchen and (2) ring boxes collected from the Hartigs’ bedroom.
Since the filing of Mr. Noling’s current application, there have been both new scientific studies and advancements in DNA testing, and a further search for evidence conducted by undersigned counsel and the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office. Several experts have offered declarations attesting to the importance of not only subjecting the cigarette butt to DNA testing but also to expanding the scope of DNA testing in Mr. Noling’s case and using more advanced methods available today:
- Nina Morrison, Senior Staff Attorney at the Innocence Project
- Rick W. Staub, Ph.D., Manager of the CSI & Property/Evidence Units of the Plano Police Department, and the Chief Forensic Consultant at Staub Forensic Genetics
- Jim Trainum, retired investigator and expert on cold case investigations
At trial, the State asserted that the shell casings and ring boxes were touched by the Hartigs’ killer. The prosecution stated that the shooter would have reloaded his weapon to fire the number of shots fired at the scene. In addition, the State took the position that the perpetrator handled the ring boxes.
In May, the Ohio Supreme Court remanded Tyrone’s case to the trial court to consider whether to grant DNA testing of the cigarette butt found at the crime scene. Primitive DNA testing of the cigarette butt did not match Tyrone. DNA testing of the cigarette butt, with today’s advanced technology, may provide important information about who actually committed this crime.
Legally, Mr. Noling’s attorneys believe that they squarely meet both prongs of the Ohio statute for DNA testing: there was no prior definitive DNA testing and DNA testing could be outcome determinative. But beyond the legal arguments, it is just common sense to test the DNA evidence and provide certainty in Mr. Noling’s case.
While the DNA testing is an important step in trying to resolve the troubling questions in this case, Mr. Noling would like the Court to grant a full new trial in order to consider the totality of evidence pointing to his innocence. No physical evidence ties Mr. Noling to the murders, all of the principle witnesses against him have recanted their testimony and said they were coerced into testifying falsely, and evidence withheld at trial points to credible alternative suspects.
You can read Mr. Noling’s Motion to Amend DNA Application here.
Tyrone Noling is an innocent man on Ohio’s death row. He has spent more than fifteen years in prison for two murders that he did not commit, despite the fact that:
- There is absolutely no physical evidence tying him to the murders.
- All of the principal witnesses against him have recanted their testimony.
- Recently discovered evidence that was withheld at trial points to credible alternative suspects.
In April 1990, Cora and Bearnhardt Hartig were tragically shot to death in their home in Atwater, Ohio. Neither Tyrone’s fingerprints, nor those of his alleged accomplices, were found in the Hartig home, despite uncontroverted evidence that the perpetrator touched many items and ransacked the home. DNA testing of a cigarette butt found at the crime scene excluded Tyrone and his alleged accomplices. No eyewitnesses placed Tyrone or his young friends at the scene of the crime.
The lack of evidence led then-Portage County Sheriff Kenneth Howe to dismiss Tyrone and the other youths as viable suspects, saying “It just didn’t fit.”
The fact that the boys even became suspects is puzzling. The police had absolutely no physical evidence from the crime scene pointing to any of them. The only thing that the police did have was the fact that in early April 1990, Tyrone and his friends were involved in a handful of minor thefts and two bumbling home robberies, including one in which Tyrone accidentally discharged a .25 caliber gun—a gun that was not the Hartig murder weapon. Not only did these crimes take place in another town miles away, they were strikingly different in nature from the cold-blooded murders of the Hartigs.
Evidence developed since trial suggests that because of the lack of evidence, an investigator—who the prosecution brought in two years later to “solve” the high-profile crime—simply relied on coercing, threatening, and manipulating witnesses to build a case against Tyrone.
More evidence supporting Tyrone’s innocence is still being sought, including DNA testing on crime scene evidence that could help identify the true perpetrator.
Despite the troublesome doubt about the reliability of Tyrone’s conviction, he has yet to receive a hearing on the merits of his innocence claims.
For more information about the evidence of innocence, read an executive summary of the case. [link to Noling Executive Summary]