Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Judge denies slaying suspect access to file




By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Michael Wehrung claims prosecutors hold the keys to a “time capsule” that could explain why he was charged with a 37-year-old beating death.

        Mr. Wehrung's lawyers say the capsule — their term for old police files and court records — is crucial to proving their client's innocence.

        But a judge ruled Monday that prosecutors either don't have the old files or are not obligated to hand them over.

        The battle over evidence in the 1963 murder case is expected to continue in the coming months as attorneys on both sides prepare for a trial sometime next year.

        Mr. Wehrung, 53, is accused of beating to death his 15-year-old girlfriend, Patricia Rebholz, as she walked home from a teen dance in Greenhills. Mr. Wehrung, who was then 15, was a suspect at the time but was never charged with a crime.

        His lawyers say evidence gathered by police and prosecutors in 1963 may reveal why it took authorities so long to charge Mr. Wehrung.

        “In 1963 we had a prosecutor who did not file charges. We want to know why,” said Jim Perry, one of Mr. Wehrung's lawyers. “We see a time capsule out there.

        “We want to be given access to the time capsule in order to do a thorough job.”

        But prosecutors said most of the documents Mr. Wehrung wants do not exist. And those that do, such as witness statements, are not part of the material the prosecution is obligated to provide.

        “There's no secret hidden in that time capsule,” said Mark Piepmeier, a chief assistant prosecutor.

        Mr. Perry said he is seeking any documents that could shed light on why a juvenile court judge called off the investigation in 1963 and declared Mr. Wehrung a ward of the court. Mr. Wehrung was then sent to a military school for two years.

        The defense also wants documents that suggest Mr. Wehrung was “arrested” when he was questioned by detectives 37 years ago. Prosecutors said they have no documents that address those issues.

        The issues are important because Mr. Wehrung is charged under a law that allows the case to remain in adult court only because Mr. Wehrung was not arrested in 1963.

        If not for that law, Mr. Wehrung would likely have been charged in juvenile court because he was 15 when Patricia died.

        A conviction in adult court could mean a life sentence. But if the case went to juvenile court, Mr. Wehrung would face little or no jail time.

        Judge Patrick Dinkelacker has ruled the case should remain in adult court, but Mr. Wehrung's lawyers have appealed.

       



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