October 2, 2014

Elyria
Fog
53°F
test

Condemned man: Cops botched case

ELYRIA — Attorneys for Stanley Jalowiec, who is awaiting execution for the 1994 slaying of police informant Ronald Lally, contend that police and prosecutorial misconduct put an innocent man on death row and asked Thursday for the convicted killer to receive a new trial.

The massive court filing not only renews old allegations that authorities withheld evidence, but accuses a man already acquitted by a jury of involvement in Lally’s slaying of confessing to the crime.

“This killer is Danny Smith, Raymond Smith’s other son,” the court documents said.

Lally had been scheduled to testify Jan. 19, 1994, at the drug trafficking trial of Raymond Smith and Daniel Smith, but he never made the court date. Instead, his body was discovered in a Cleveland cemetery. Lally had been shot, stabbed, beaten and run over by a car, according to authorities.

Investigators ultimately determined that Lally had gone to Cleveland in the company of three men, Jalowiec, Raymond Smith and another of Smith’s sons, Michael Smith. Jalowiec contends that on the night of the murder he stayed at his mother’s house.

Michael Smith, who agreed to cooperate in the case, was never charged. Jalowiec and Raymond Smith were convicted and sentenced to death, although Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery later commuted Smith’s death sentence to life in prison after determining he was mentally retarded. Jalowiec’s attorneys have asked Rothgery to remove himself from the case because he once represented a witness in the case.

Daniel Smith was acquitted of charges he set up the killing, although he is now serving prison time in an unrelated drug case.

But according to the documents filed by Jalowiec’s attorneys, which include the Chicago-based Exoneration Project, Daniel Smith confessed to several people that he, his father and his brother were the ones who were with Lally when he was killed.

Melissa Arroyo wrote in an affidavit that she went on several “dates” with Daniel Smith while working as a confidential informant for Elyria police.

“Danny told me that he was in the car with his father and brother and that they killed the informant in his drug case,” Arroyo wrote. “Danny also confessed that he was driving the car and backed over the victim numerous times.”

Arroyo contends that police recorded several conversations she had with Daniel Smith, but Jalowiec’s lawyers said those tapes have never been turned over to them.

Retired Elyria police Detective Al Leiby, who was the lead investigator on the case, said no such tapes exist.

“If I had an audio tape of Danny Smith admitting involvement in the murder, why would I withhold it at trial?” Leiby said.

Although he doesn’t confess to involvement in the killing, Daniel Smith did provide an affidavit in support of Jalowiec, writing he believes “Stan stands wrongly convicted as his trial was based on a mountain of lies.”

Jalowiec’s attorney wrote that Raymond and Daniel Smith also have confessed to others that Jalowiec wasn’t involved.

In his own affidavit, Jalowiec claims he worked as an informant for Leiby at the time of Lally’s murder but refused to continue doing so afterward.

“No matter what he did or said, I wouldn’t act as an informant for him after Lally’s death,” Jalowiec wrote. “I believe his anger toward me is why he went after me with no regard for the truth.”

Leiby said Jalowiec never worked as an informant for him.

The court filing also contained an affidavit from former Elyria police Officer Hetzel See, who accuses Leiby of having a business relationship with Michael Schoeger, whom See claims was Daniel Smith’s roommate.  See wrote he believes Leiby tipped Schoeger off to the fact that Lally was working as a police informant.

See also accused Leiby of interfering with drug investigations and refusing to consider alternate suspects in the  case.

Leiby denied knowing Schoeger, said he didn’t discuss the case with See and rejected the accusations raised by See and Jalowiec’s attorneys.

“It’s not true. It’s (expletive),” Leiby said. “They’re attacking me to get Stanley off death row.”

See also accuses Leiby and Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will, who was once an Elyria police officer, of mishandling and destroying evidence in numerous cases.

Will called See’s accusations “baseless” and said if See has evidence of wrongdoing he should turn it over to law enforcement for investigation.

“I think it’s utter nonsense,” Will said, adding that his office will review the paperwork filed by Jalowiec’s legal team and respond.

See, who retired in 2010, has had a strained relationship with the Police Department and Will for years.

He sued Will and former Elyria Police Chief Michael Medders, accusing them of retaliating against him for his union work.

Will was later dropped from the case, but a federal jury sided with See, who was ultimately paid $750,000 by the city, on his allegations against Medders.

Elliot Slosar, the legal intern with the Exoneration Project working on the Jalowiec case, said See’s credibility is bolstered by his success in his lawsuit against Medders.

Former Assistant County Prosecutor Jonathan Rosenbaum, who handled the trials of those accused in the Lally killing, wrote in an email that he, too, takes issue with See’s allegations and plans to sue the Exoneration Project on Leiby’s behalf when the case is resolved.

Leiby said if he believed Jalowiec was innocent, he would be fighting to get him freed.

“I was convinced Stanley Jalowiec did it when he was sentenced and I’m still convinced he did it,” he said.

Jalowiec also is challenging his conviction in federal court and has a request pending before the U.S. Supreme Court to consider his case.

Managing Editor Julie Wallace contributed to this story.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.