Death Penalty Action
3 min readDec 2, 2018


Anthony Apanavitch exonerat — Er. RETURNED TO DEATH ROW!

19 months ago I wrote about visiting Tony Apanovitch in his home in Akron. It was the first time I had seen him NOT in maximum security prison since I met him on death row — somewhere prior to 1990. Here is that piece (it has links and gets into the story):

Thursday morning I received an e-mail from an attorney friend with one word. “AWFUL!” Attached was the decision of the Ohio Supreme Court. I skimmed it and wrote back: “What does this mean? Is his conviction reinstated?” The response:

“Not yet . . . by a 4–3 vote they remand it to the trial court. I think there’s hope for relief under a different rule (33, for new trails, vs post-conviction, which the court says doesn’t apply here). It’s truly a mind boggling opinion. No jurisdiction because the STATE asked for the DNA testing, not Tony. And b/c there’s no constitutional right not to be executed if you’re innocent. The height of formalism over truth and justice.”

Worried, I called Tony. No answer, but he called back ten minutes later. He had been on the phone with his attorneys. Next steps were still unclear, and while he didn’t think they would come to get him, his spirits seemed high, and he was ready for whatever. It reminded me of what my friend Sam Reese Sheppard said when we were waiting for a ruling in his civil suit seeking a declaration of innocence for his father, Dr. Sam Sheppard (Famous 1954 case — see Sheppard v. Maxwell). Sam said, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” I’m usually an optimist, but that lesson landed.

Saturday — yesterday afternoon(12/1/18) — this message pops up on my phone: “Abe its Beth. The US marshals took Tony yesterday.

After some back and forth and checking with Dale, I posted this:

Devastating news. Tony Apanovitch’s rulings throwing out his convictions were disallowed on a technicality. This guy did 32 years on death row for a crime did not commit. DNA evidence exonerates him. He’s been home for [19 months] on an ankle monitor waiting for the Ohio Supreme Court to rule on State’s motion to reverse the rulings. On Thanksgiving he was allowed to visit family in Indiana — to travel out of state. On Thursday the OSC returned the case to the lower courts saying his relief had been granted on a disallowed argument, and not commenting on the merits of the evidence.

Tony’s wife just contacted me. He’s been scooped up by [police agency — wife said US Marshall Service] and is headed back to death row — expects to be in Chillicothe by Sunday. Status hearing on Monday. Unbelievable.

Just imagine going back to hell to resume appeals after tasting freedom…. Unbelievable.

Prayers for Tony and family, and the family of the victim, Mary Ann Flynn, who continue to be innocent pawns in this whole mess.

THIS. THIS is the insanity of the legal system here. And that’s just part of why I do this work. I’ll be waiving the Tony Apanovitch flag until that old man is free, and then you’ll be seeing us together, shouting it from the rooftops.

I texted a friend of Tony’s last night who pastors a church that was supportive to him and is supportive to others in prison and on death row. Once she was over her disbelief, she said, “I have no words.” My response: “I do, but not for mixed company.” She asked, “What does (Tony’s wife) Beth need?” I had already asked Beth that question. Her answer: “PRAYERS.”

Stay tuned.

[UPDATE as of December 6, 2018: Tony spent several nights on death row in Chillicothe before being returned to Cuyahoga County to await his status hearing on December 18. A Go-Fund-me account has been set up to support the needs of his family — please be generous: gofundme.com/tony039s-family-is-missing-him]

Abraham Bonowitz has been working to stop executions in the United States for over 30 years. He co-directs Death Penalty Action. Please generously support this work today at http://www.deathpenaltyaction.org/donate



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