CLEVELAND - A clemency petition has been filed on behalf of Nancy Smith, who spent 15 years in prison for sexually abusing children -- crimes she has always said she never committed.
The Ohio Innocence Project, based in Cincinnati, and a pro bono counsel from New York filed the petition last week.
The petition asks Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) for "the grant of a pardon, or alternatively a commutation of sentence" for Smith. It goes on to say Smith is currently living a productive life in her community.
Smith was convicted of rape, attempted rape, complicity to rape and gross sexual imposition in Lorain County Common Pleas Court in 1994. The prosecution said Smith used her job as a Head Start bus driver to take young children to Joseph Allen's apartment in Lorain, where the two would sexually abuse them. Allen also was convicted, but no clemency has been filed for him. Allen also has always maintained his innocence.
Smith was sentenced from 30 to 90 years in prison when convicted in 1994, while Allen was sentenced to five life sentences. But, both are free on bond today because of a complicated and lengthy court battle.
"Until you've been in my shoes, you can't understand the pain this has caused me and my family," Smith told NewsChannel5 last year.
Smith made the comments after a hearing in Judge James Burge's court, after the judge had acquitted Smith and Allen. The acquittal happened in 2009. At that time, the judge had questions about the police lineup where molested children were asked to identify Allen. Most of the children reportedly could not point out Allen.
The petition for clemency argues back in 1993, when the children were questioned, methods used then were not as advanced as today. Also, the petition reads, "the discussions that occurred among adults in the presence of children, and the leading and suggestive questioning utilized in the Nancy Smith investigation and trial almost undoubtedly shaped and tainted the children's memories of events."
The Ohio Supreme Court later overturned Burge's decision, but Smith and Allen have been free since 2009, pending re-sentencing.
The petition reads, "there is absolutely no societal benefit to be gained in re-incarcerating Ms. Smith for another 15 to 79 years."
Smith last year she wants to live her life and spend time with her children and grandchildren, and said she it's a horrible feeling to be accused of something she never did.
Allen's attorney and his sister said last year Allen also is having a hard time while the case is tied up, and said he is living his life in limbo.
Prosecutors will respond to the petition after reviewing it, which could happen at anytime.