A Cincinnati man who has spent more than 16 years in prison, despite evidence pointing to another man with the same name, may have a chance at a new trial.
For several months in 2003, Cincinnati police were focusing on a suspect named John E. Long in the fatal stabbing of a woman who was a prostitute.
A witness who told police she saw the killer that night running from the area, a man she recognized, later picked out John E. Long from a photo lineup.
A police “Investigative Log” showed that four months after the August 2003 killing prosecutors had been poised to charge that man with murder.
But other evidence then led investigators to focus on John William Long, who ultimately was convicted of murder. He has maintained his innocence and filed numerous appeals, which until recently were unsuccessful.
In an Aug. 18 opinion, Ohio’s 1st District Court of Appeals said Long should be allowed to file a motion for a new trial based on new evidence. A lower court had denied Long's request to file the motion.
The new evidence includes the investigative log, which Long finally received in 2019 after a court battle over his public records request to obtain his entire case file. He said jurors in his trial were never told that a witness had picked out a different man, John E. Long, from a photo lineup.
John William Long, who has been representing himself in his appeals, also said that witnesses provided physical descriptions of the suspected killer that did not match him. He said the lead detective perjured herself at his 2004 trial when she testified “no one ever selected John E. Long out of a photo array.”
Long, now 58, is serving a possible life prison sentence. Records show he will next be eligible for parole in 2029.
Before his 2004 trial, Long was offered a plea deal, where he would have pleaded guilty to manslaughter and faced, at most, a 10-year sentence.
Long declined to accept the plea deal.
The killing happened in August 2003 on or near a warehouse loading dock in the West End. Witnesses heard screams, then a Black man running from the scene. Amerrintha Spikes was found dead from multiple stab wounds.
Among the evidence pointing to John William Long: Blue denim shorts found near the crime scene, which Long admits were his, had blood on them that matched the Spikes' DNA. In a pocket of the shorts was a receipt for a bus ticket issued for “John Long.”
Long testified at his trial that the shorts were his. He said he was living on the streets and had slept on the loading dock several days before the killing and left the shorts there.
The appeals court, in its opinion, said because Long wasn’t given access to the reports he needed until 2019, he had been "unavoidably prevented from timely discovering and presenting in a new-trial motion the evidence upon which his new-trial motion depended.”