Death row inmate files appeal over DNA testing

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A death row inmate seeking DNA testing on a cigarette butt in hopes it could help exonerate him in a 1990 double murder has appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Tyrone Noling wants access to results of DNA testing previously completed, plus new testing on shell casings and other evidence from the Portage County crime scene, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

The state’s high court previously heard arguments about Noling’s case when it considered whether a constitutional appeals process is available to condemned prisoners who are denied DNA testing after a trial is over. The court cleared the way for the DNA testing appeal when it sided with Noling in that matter last month and ruled that part of a law denying that appeals process is unconstitutional.

Noling, 44, was convicted of killing Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig, both 81, at their home. He maintains his innocence. No execution date has been set.

Authorities say Noling was part of a group involved in home robberies of elderly couples. Three others in the group implicated Noling in the slayings of the Hartigs during a burglary but later retracted their statements, saying that police pressured them to name Noling as the shooter.

Attorneys for Noling argue that technological advances make it possible to identify who smoked the cigarette found near the scene and to determine whether that person was among other previously undisclosed suspects. The original DNA tests of a cigarette butt found in the Hartigs’ driveway didn’t match Noling or the others in the group.

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci had said he doesn’t expect the Supreme Court’s allowance of the appeal to change the ultimate outcome in Noling’s case.