COLUMBIANA CO. Hearing is ordered for inmate
The county prosecutor said the hearing will exonerate county officials.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Convicted killer Gordon Reynolds could receive a new trial if he succeeds in arguing that Columbiana County officials influenced key witnesses against him.
The 7th District Court of Appeals has ordered county common pleas court to grant Reynolds a hearing in coming months regarding the claim.
Meanwhile, Reynolds, 73, is on death row at Mansfield Correctional Institution in Mansfield. He was placed there after being found guilty in 1995 of the 1988 aggravated murder and dismemberment of his girlfriend, Lynn Hanna.
Hearing necessary: In the decision reached earlier this week, the appeals court determined that a hearing is necessary to weigh Reynolds' claim that two witnesses in his trial were compensated by county officials in exchange for their incriminating testimony.
Reynolds' claim could "put the whole case in such a different light as to undermine confidence in the verdict," the appeals court determined.
County Prosecutor Robert Herron said Tuesday that county officials engaged in no misconduct.
Herron acknowledged that the hearing could lead to the court's ordering a new trial, but he said he doesn't think that will happen.
"Once the facts are brought out," Reynolds' claim will be proved baseless, Herron said.
According to a court document, Reynolds is alleging that prosecutors entered into deals with Gordon Springer, who is Reynolds son, and Rick Thomas to testify against Reynolds.
Reward money: Reynolds says his son was offered $25,000 in reward money and help in relocating if he testified against his father.
Thomas was offered similar inducements, Reynolds alleges.
Evidence of the deals includes copies of checks issued to Springer from Herron and former Sheriff Richard Koffel totaling $5,000, Reynolds maintains.
Springer and Thomas were the only witnesses who testified during the trial that Reynolds confessed murdering Hanna in statements he made to them after the slaying, the appeals court determined.
"No direct or forensic evidence was presented linking" Reynolds to the crime, the appeals court also stated.
The deals Springer and Thomas supposedly entered into would have given them a personal stake in Reynolds' being found guilty, the appeals court said.
For those reasons and others, a hearing is necessary to weigh Reynolds' claim, the court determined.