CLEVELAND: - Anthony Lemons waited 18 years to prove he didn’t kill anyone.
He’s been waiting two more years to be compensated for his time behind bars.
Now, after an 8th District Court of Appeals ruling, he’s one step closer to gaining some semblance of restitution for losing his prime years to prison for a crime he did not commit.
He calls his journey through the justice system a “22-year odyssey.”
“It was hard being away from my family, being wrongfully imprisoned,” he told WKYC Channel 3 News. “It definitely took a toll out of my life.”
He was barely out of high school when he was convicted of murder in 1995. He fought to prove his innocence until 2013, when his case, already in shambles, was dismissed by a judge.
There was no DNA. No fingerprints. No weapon. Just a supposed eyewitness, Jude Adamcik.
And the state’s star witness was a drug-addicted prostitute. She had died by the time Lemons argued his innocence.
While the witness placed Lemons at the scene of the murder of Eric Sims, she also placed his feet in Nike-brand shoes, defense attorneys proved, that had not yet been sold publicly.
“The state [put] me in a place I shouldn’t have been in,” Lemons said. “They hampered my life to the degree I’m 20 years behind.”
But prosecutors would not fold. Instead, they took their fight to another court, challenging Lemons on his efforts for a legal finding of innocence, which is required to receive compensation from the state.
A county judge originally sided with prosecutors, but that ruling was overturned last week by the appellate court. Unless the Ohio Supreme Court intervenes, Lemons can now file suit in the Ohio Court of Claims.
State law provides about $52.250 for each year of wrongful imprisonment. In addition, former inmates can argue for lost wages.
Attorney Kevin Spellacy, who along with attorneys David Malik, Sara Gedeon and Alphonse Gerhardstein won his release from prison, said Lemons can never be fully compensated for his losses.
“He was in prison for 18 years for something he did not do,” Spellacy said. “There’s nothing that’s going to make Anthony whole. There’s no amount of money.
As it stands, Lemons, now 42, can get about $945,000 in compensation, plus lost wages. If he’s awarded $30,000 a year in lost wages, a conservative figure, Lemons’ compensation could rise to about $1.5 million.
Still, that number is small to Lemons, considered the years he lost to prison.
“There’s so much I missed out on in life,” he said. “I can never replace those years they took from me. No amount of money is worth 18 years of my life.”
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