ELYRIA — Death row inmate Stanley Jalowiec has lost his bid to convince a judge that he deserves a new trial in the 1994 murder of police informant Ronald Lally.
Visiting Judge Virgil Lee Sinclair ruled Wednesday that Jalowiec’s legal team failed to prove it had evidence that would exonerate Jalowiec, who claims to have been at his mother’s house when Lally was shot, stabbed, beaten and run over by a car in the Cleveland cemetery where his body was found in January 1994.
“It was claimed that ‘new’ evidence existed that never had been previously presented,” Sinclair wrote. “These claims fall short as to be nothing more than subjective theories. Proof was lacking to substantiate any of the claims. The evidence presented is insufficient to grant relief.”
Tara Thompson, an attorney with the Chicago-based Exoneration Project, which represents Jalowiec, said she was disappointed by the ruling. She promised to appeal Sinclair’s decision and continue to pursue other avenues to win a new trial for Jalowiec.
“I believe in his claims, and I believe in his innocence,” Thompson said.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said Sinclair made the right call, but he expects an appeal. He said Jalowiec’s lawyers didn’t make their case, while his office was able to show the investigation into Lally’s death was conducted properly.
“We were confident in what we presented,” Will said.
Attorneys for Jalowiec leveled numerous accusations of police and prosecutorial misconduct, including allegations that prosecutors withheld evidence that could have led a jury to acquit Jalowiec, allegations police and prosecutors have long denied.
In addition to Jalowiec, the investigation showed that Raymond Smith and his son Michael Smith were in the car with Lally when he was taken to Cleveland shortly before he was due to testify in a drug trial in Lorain County.
Although Michael Smith was never charged in the case and cooperated with investigators, his father was convicted and sentenced to death. Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery later commuted Raymond Smith’s death sentence to life in prison after finding the man was mentally handicapped.
Daniel Smith, another of Raymond Smith’s sons, was also charged with murder for allegedly setting up the killing of Lally but was acquitted. He is serving prison time for an unrelated drug conviction.
Jalowiec’s lawyers have suggested that Daniel Smith had gone to Cleveland and participated in Lally’s killing. They argued that Melissa Arroyo, a police informant, had gone on a date with Daniel Smith after the murder and during their dinner she confessed that “they” killed someone.
But Sinclair wrote that Smith didn’t provide any other details and there was no proof, as Jalowiec’s attorneys contended, that Arroyo was wearing a wire at the time.
“She provided no evidence that a tape of this discussion ever existed,” Sinclair wrote. “She was at best vague and may have been wired on a different occasion for a drug buy. Her testimony was of no value in supporting the claims of the Defendant.”
Sinclair also wrote that Arroyo’s testimony, as well as the recollections of several other witnesses, had already been considered in federal court proceedings in which Jalowiec unsuccessfully sought a new trial.
Other witnesses, the judge wrote, had no value in supporting any of Jalowiec’s claims.