LOUISVILLE — A federal judge has ordered Kentucky to clear a former Death Row inmate's record in a rape and slaying case that resulted in the state's first death sentence after states resumed executing inmates.
U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves's order on Thursday eliminates 62-year-old Eugene Williams Gall Jr.'s arrest, conviction and sentence in the 1978 kidnapping, rape and death of 12-year-old Lisa Jansen.
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In 2001, a federal appeals court overturned Gall's conviction and death sentence in Kentucky, saying prosecutors failed to prove key elements of the case. The appeals court also said a prohibition against double jeopardy forbade a retrial.
Jansen's death and Gall's trial sent shivers through northern Kentucky and southern Ohio.
"I remember being afraid that random people on the street would snatch you," said Linda Tally Smith, who was 9 years old at the time and is now the top prosecutor in Boone County, where she grew up and Gall was convicted. "It was scary."
Kentucky turned Gall over to Ohio in 2001 to serve a life sentence for rape and murder in multiple other attacks on young girls, including one murder, in four counties in the southern part of Ohio. He was convicted by a Ohio jury in 1979 and is serving his sentence at Lebanon Correctional Institute in Lebanon, Ohio.
Gall's attorney, public defender Tim Arnold, says the decision makes it easier for him to argue for parole in 2021 because the Kentucky case cannot be taken into consideration by Ohio authorities.
"It is unusual," Arnold told The Associated Press on Friday. "Kentucky seems unwilling to accept the outcome of these issues."
Smith called Thursday's ruling "a slap in the face" to Jan sen's family. "As far as the law is concerned, this crime never happened," Smith said. "But, there is a little girl who never got to live her life because of this monster."
Greg Flannagan, a spokesman for the Montgomery County, Ohio, prosecutor's office, said the judge's decision about the Kentucky case won't affect future opposition to Gall's release.
"Considering the violent nature and number of crimes the defendant has been convicted of in Ohio, we would obviously strenuously object to and oppose his parole at any time regardless of his record or lack of record in Kentucky," Flannagan said.
Shelly Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Attorney General's Office, said prosecutors in Kentucky will appeal the ruling.
Reeves' ruling is the result of a motion Gall's attorneys filed in April, seeking to clear his record in Kentucky. Gall argued that he was still suffering the consequences of a voided conviction because it may affect his parole status and how he is classified in prison.
A Kentucky jury convicted Gall of kidnapping Jansen as she walked to her Columbia Township, Ohio, school in April 1978, then bringing her to Kentucky, where she was raped and shot to death. The death sentence handed down was the first in Kentucky after states resumed applying the death penalty in 1976.
Two Ohio juries convicted Gall in 1979 in other cases. In the first, jurors found Gall guilty on two counts of kidnapping. He was sentenced to seven to 25 years on each count to run consecutively.