In Ohio, the state is preparing to compensate Ralph Blaine Smith, who served 21 years in the penal system for a robbery and home invasion that perhaps did not occur. The man will receive a total of $1.3 million in reparations from the state.
According to Smith, the settlement will allow him to provide for his family, who stood by him during the horrendous ordeal, which included visits and phone calls.
In December, Ralph Blaine Smith’s lawyers filed a complaint against the state in the Ohio Court of Claims for wrongful imprisonment. It was only a short time before the two parties reached a settlement agreement that was acceptable to both parties.
In February 2000, Smith was accused of being one of two Black men who forced their way into a Lancaster home inhabited by a couple and their young children. Police reported that the intruders forced one of the adults to open a safe, from which they stole approximately $10,000 and a large portion of rare comic books.
However, an officer who arrived at the residence first after the reported robbery wrote a narrative supplement that county prosecutors at the time failed to provide to the defence.
In June 2021, Fairfield County Common Pleas Judge Richard E. Berens granted Smith a new trial. Berens affirmed in his order giving Smith a new trial that the supplemental narrative contained numerous observations expressing scepticism about whether a crime had occurred.
In Berens’ opinion, the evidence was exculpatory, which means that it might raise a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt and that prosecutors were required to provide it to the defence.
Also, a responding officer was puzzled about how multiple men could have attacked the Lancaster house and fled without leaving footprints in the snow that covered the area at the time.
A federal lawsuit is also pending against the Pickerington police detective who investigated Smith’s case, as well as the city of Pickerington and Fairfield County.