Thursday, December 21, 2000

Wehrung's lawyers want prosecutors punished

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Attorneys for accused killer Michael Wehrung asked a judge Wednesday to punish prosecutors for releasing a “highly prejudicial document” to the public.

        Defense attorneys claim Hamilton County prosecutors broke the rules when they attached a 1965 coroner's report to a legal brief they filed Tuesday in Common Pleas Court.

        The coroner's report links Mr. Wehrung to the 1963 beating death of his 15-year-old girlfriend, Patricia Ann Rebholz.

        Mr. Wehrung, who was then 15, is quoted as telling police officers that “his other self” may have killed Patricia as she walked to his house after a teen dance in Greenhills.

        “He feels certain in his mind there is a possibility he did kill Patricia Rebholz,” states the report, which was compiled by coroner's investigator Wilbert Stagenhorst.

        Mr. Wehrung, now 53, was questioned repeatedly in 1963 but was never charged with a crime. But after prosecutors reopened the case last year, he was indicted on murder charges.

        One of his attorneys, Earle Maiman, filed a legal brief Wednesday that seeks sanctions against Prosecutor Mike Allen for making the coroner's report public.

        Mr. Maiman said there was no reason for Mr. Allen to attach the report to his brief, other than to expose information unfavorable to Mr. Wehrung.

        “The state has deliberately leaked to the media an inadmissible and highly prejudicial document,” Mr. Maiman wrote. “The state's conduct is abominable, and should not be tolerated.”

        The dispute over the coroner's report began Monday, when Mr. Wehrung's lawyers mentioned it in court to support their argument that prosecutors were slow to give them important documents about the case.

        Mr. Maiman said the report noted that Mr. Wehrung had been “arrested” in 1963.

        The point is important because Mr. Wehrung's case is in adult court only because he was not arrested or in custody back in 1963. Otherwise, the case would likely be in juvenile court.

        Prosecutors said they filed a copy of the coroner's report to show that it did not mention an arrest.

        In his brief Wednesday, Mr. Maiman submitted a copy of another document signed by Mr. Stagenhorst. And in that document the investigator did use the word “arrested” when referring to Mr. Wehrung.

        Mr. Maiman said it was unfair to make the coroner's report public because the material would not be admitted during a trial. “This is pure hearsay,” Mr. Maiman said of the report. “And certainly inadmissible.”

        Judge Patrick Dinkelacker will hear arguments about the dispute in February. A trial date has not been set because Mr. Wehrung is appealing the decision to keep his case in adult court.

        If he is convicted in adult court, he could face a life sentence. If his case went to juvenile court, he likely would not face prison time.


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