Congratulations to the Ohio Innocence Project for their recent exoneration of Glenn Tinney. Tinney originally pled guilty to the murder of Ted White in 1992. The project presented convincing evidence to the court that Tinney’s confessions were false based on the fact that none of the confessions matched the facts of the crime and a Ohio judge reversed Tinney’s conviction. Perhaps in NJ, a civil reservation would come into effect so as to not allow a previous admission of guilt hold any sway in any subsequent civil trial. In addition, this case illustrates the problem in withdrawing a guilty plea in cases of innocence. You can read the entire court decision here.
In 1988, White was clubbed in the head and face at his mattress business in Akron between 12:45 and 1:55 p.m. White died of his injuries three days later and was never able to relate to authorities what happened. No witnesses were found and police never uncovered any fingerprints or DNA to help identify the actual perpetrator. Regardless, police originally suspected Matt Mason of the murder but were unable to bring a case against him. Mason and Tinney were acquaintances.
Three years later, a prosecution investigator was told Tinney may know something about Mason’s participation in White’s murder. Tinney was already incarcerated and a prosecutor’s investigation went to question him. Tinney said that he and Mason killed White together. Two days later, Tinney said he did the crime alone. Police also uncovered that Tinney gave several other confessions which were neither consistent with each other nor with the facts of the crime. Tinney told police he would agree to plea to the crime if “some money held by the police was returned to him and he was permitted to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes when brought back to Richland County.” Police agreed and Tinney was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
After sentencing, Tinney’s attorney and even Tinney, himself, filed motions to withdraw the guilty plea questioning Tinney’s guilty plea and mental health. Prison mental health records show Tinney has been taking psychiatric medications since 1984, as well as antipsychotics and antidepressants. With continued use, these medications commonly cause changes in brain chemistry and create mental illness. Tinney has given inconsistent or false statements about his family and criminal history, such as claiming grief over the death of a spouse and son he never had. Even ten months before his 1992 guilty plea, Tinney was diagnosed as paranoid, schizophrenic, depressed, and antisocial. Both the state and defense experts agreed that based on his diagnosis, it is certainly possible that he may act impulsively and confess to crimes he did not commit. Tinney’s focus at the time of his confession was for immediate gratification to receive money, cigarettes, and coffee from the police.
The prosecution investigator who interviewed Tinney in prison said “Tinney replied that if we wanted to pin the homicide on him we could, he didn’t care one way or another.” Additionally, evidence shows that if the facts of the crime were correct in the confessions, it was because Tinney asked specific questions about the crime to his interviewer and then later relayed that information back. The confessions were so drastically different, that even the amount of money Tinney purported that he and Mason robbed ranged anywhere between $1,000 or $3,500 to $4,000 or $30,000, depending on which confession was reviewed, even though there was no evidence of robbery. Tinney consistently gave the wrong time of day for the crime. And most importantly, Tinney’s description of the weapon and the attack do not match the facts.
The court concluded that upon close comparison of Tinney’s confessions, he “confessed to killing a man he could not identify, for conflicting motives which don’t match the facts, at the wrong time of day, with a weapon that does not match the victim’s injuries, by striking him in the wrong part of the head, and stealing items the victim either still possessed after the attach or probably never possessed.” Because of these reasons, the court said it would be “manifestly unjust to deny the withdraw of the guilty plea” because the confessions did not provide any support for the murder conviction.
We congratulate the Ohio Innocence Project for their hard work in uncovering the vast discrepancies between Tinney’s confessions and for their ultimate success in the extremely difficult task of convincing a court to allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea!