New Anthony Sowell appeal doesn't deny guilt; Blames defense for death penalty sentence

CLEVELAND - New attorneys for convicted killer Anthony Sowell filed a 242-page appeal, blaming his previous counsel for the death sentence.

Sowell, who in 2011 was convicted of killing 11 women and leaving their bodies around his Imperial Avenue home on Cleveland's east side, was sentenced to death. During the mitigation phase of the trial, the defense called military experts and social workers in an attempt to save his life.

"Anthony Sowell was going to be found guilty. That was a given," the chief public defender wrote in the appeal filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday.

"The only open question, the only thing that was uncertain, was the sentence. Would it be death of life without the possibility of parole?"

The appeal said Sowell's trial attorneys, Rufus Sims and John Parker, did not treat the case like a death penalty case, and instead, they attempted to poke holes in the way the crime scene was processed and the integrity of DNA tests.

"In doing so, counsel repeatedly directed the jurors' attention to gruesome and painfully damming evidence. All of that and more was done because counsel approached the first phase of the case as if they could convince the jury to have reasonable doubt of Sowell's guilty."

"There was an alternative. Even though Ohio's death penalty law does not permit a guilty plea if a jury is to determine punishment, counsel need not contest guilt. They can concede it."

The rest of the appeal outlines the major facts of the case, backs a change of venue and lists dozens of court cases to support the overall argument that the defense attorneys failed.

"…no rational lawyer could reasonable have imagined that a jury would not find Anthony Sowell guilty of at least 11 counts of aggravated murder and at least one death specification for each count," the appeal said. In order to be sentenced to death, the jury would have to find Sowell guilty of just one aggravated murder count while committing another felony, like rape.

The appeal even points to one of Parker's favorite lines during the trial: "And that they have no physical evidence, no eyewitnesses, no fingerprints, no DNA."

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