Wrongly Convicted Database Record


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Joseph D'Ambrosio



Murder and Kidnapping



Years Imprisoned:


Year Crime:


Year Convicted:


Year Cleared:


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Judicially Exonerated Released

Summary of Case:

"Joseph D'Ambrosio (aka Joe D'Ambrosio) and Thomas Michael Keenan were co-defendants wrongly convicted of the September 1988 murder of 19-year-old Anthony Klann in Cleveland, Ohio. The conviction of Thomas Keenan in February 1989, and D'Ambrosio on February 19, 1989, after separate trials was based on the testimony of co-defendant, Edward Espinoza, the sole eyewitness to the murder and he admitted he had participated in the crime. Facing the death penalty for aggravated murder Espinoza agreed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and other noncapital crimes in exchange for a prison sentence and to act as a cooperating prosecution witness. After their convictions both Keenan and D'Ambrosio were sentenced to death. Keenan's conviction was overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court on June 16, 1993 based on extraordinary prosecutor misconduct that violated his due process right to a fair trial. In 1994 Keennan was again convicted after a retrial and again sentenced to death. After more than 15 years on death row D'Ambrosio's attorneys discovered that Cuyahoga County prosecutors failed to provide 10 pieces of evidence that could have resulted in D'Ambrosio acquittal at trial. D'Ambrosio filed a petition for a new trial which was denied by the Ohio state courts. However, in 2006 a federal judge granted his habeas corpus petition and barred his retrial because of the egregiousness of the prosecutorial misconduct. D'Ambrosio was released in 2009. The charges against D'Ambrosio were dismissed in January 2012 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the District Court judge's granting of his habeas petition. Keenan sought a new trial based on the same new evidence as D'Ambrosio. After the Ohio state court's denied Keenan's petition, he filed a federal habes corpus petiton that was granted on April 24, 2012 with the federal judges ruling that: "The court found that “Keenan was denied the right to due process pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment as interpreted in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)." Keenan was released on September 6, 2012 after his motion to dismiss his charges with prejudice was granted by Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo. Judge Russo's ruling stated: "motion. It stated, “In light of the State’s egregious prosecutorial misconduct [and violations of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), in Keenan’s prior trials], Keenan cannot receive the fair and Constitutional trial that he is entitled to today.” On September 19, 2013 the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Russo's ruling. On June 25, 2015 the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a 4 to 3 majority decision that Judge Russo abused his discretion by dismissing Keenan's case with prejudice without making an adequate record of his reasons for doing so, and the Court remanded for Keenan's retrial. On February 11, 2016 Keenan pled guilty to aggravated burglary and kidnapping charges in exchange for a sentence of time served. Espinoza died in 2009. On January 23, 2013 D'Ambrosio filed a complaint for compensation with the Ohio Court of Claims. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled against D'Ambrosio being able to pursue a compensation claim. D'Ambrosio filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that was dismissed."

Conviction Caused By:

Prosecutorial misconduct of concealing exculpatory evidence.

Innocence Proved By:

"The charges were dismissed against Michael Keenan in September 2013, and against Joseph D'Ambrosio in January 2012."

Defendant Aided By:

Compensation Awarded:

Denied by State of Ohio and federal civil rights lawsuit was dismissed.

Was Perpetrator Identified?

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Age When Released:





Information Source 1:

"Michael Keenan freed, murder charge from 24 years ago dismissed by Cuyahoga County judge, By Peter Krouse (staff writer), Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 6, 2012"

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Information Source 2:

"Former death row prisoner Joe D'Ambrosio suing state for wrongful imprisonment, By Pat Galbincea (staff), The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), February 10, 2012"

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Information Source 3:

"Joe D'Ambrosio v. State of Ohio, No. 2013-00049 WI (Ohio Court of Claims, 1/23/2013) (Complaint For Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation)"

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Information Source 4:

"Joe D'Ambrosio v. State of Ohio, No. 2013-00049 WI (Ohio Court of Claims, 1/23/2013 (Docket)"

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Innocents Database Created and Maintained by Hans Sherrer innocents@forejustice.org

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