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Appellate court turns down prisoner request to exhume body of slain Youngstown cop

Published: Thu, June 2, 2011 @ 5:36 p.m.

YOUNGSTOWN — The 7th District Court of Appeals has unanimously rejected a long-delayed request by the murderer of a city police officer for exhumation of the officer’s body in search of new evidence and for a new trial.

The appeals court ruled today that Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court was correct in rejecting in November 2009 the requests from William T. Dawson Jr., 43, who was convicted in the 1987 shooting death of Patrolman Paul Durkin.

Dawson admitted shooting the officer with a .22-caliber handgun, but asked that the officer’s body be exhumed to support his claim that he shot the officer in self-defense during an altercation outside the officer’s police cruiser.

The appellate court noted, however, that the evidence presented in the murder trial showed Durkin was shot while seated in the cruiser.

“It is not at all clear from appellant’s filings when he came to the conclusion that the victim’s body might contain additional evidence in his favor, but it certainly cannot be considered reasonable to wait 20 years to bring this issue to the attention of the court,” wrote Judge Cheryl L. Waite, with Judges Joseph J. Vukovich and Mary DeGenaro concurring.

Dawson, who filed the appeal without a lawyer, is serving a prison term of 18 years to life in the Belmont Correctional Institution. His next parole eligibility will be in June 2019.

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