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Ohio judge turns down Cleveland serial killer's request for new trial, no juror misconduct
CLEVELAND (AP) ' A serial killer convicted of hiding the remains of 11 women in and around his home won't get a new trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Defense attorneys for Anthony Sowell had argued for a second trial because a jury forewoman complained after the verdict that he had winked at her during the trial and that she thought he was trying to win her over. The woman also said she "knew something horrible happened" when she and other jurors toured Sowell's house.
Cuyahoga County Judge Dick Ambrose ruled there was no evidence of any misconduct.
Sowell, 52, was sentenced to death earlier this month for murdering the women, a case that shocked the city because of its brutality and because of questions it raised about how police handle crime in poor neighborhoods. His conviction and sentence will be appealed automatically to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Jurors who convicted him spoke to reporters after they recommended execution with the understanding they would not provide their names. The judge hasn't released the jurors' names, which were requested by The Associated Press.
The forewoman said the visit to the Sowell house at the beginning of the trial gave her an overwhelming sense of sadness. "I started to cry," she said. "I knew something horrible happened in that house." She also described Sowell winking at her in court.
Defense attorneys said she should have mentioned the eye contact earlier so the judge could have determined whether the juror had any bias.
"It is clear from the news articles that at least the jury forewoman was offended by the defendant's eye contact and was prejudiced against the defendant as a result," a defense motion said.
Prosecutors said it wouldn't be fair to grant a new trial to a defendant who causes a courtroom stir with a wink or a smile.
The women whose bodies were found at Sowell's home began disappearing in 2007. Prosecutors said he lured them with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Police discovered the first two bodies in late 2009 after officers went to investigate a woman's report that she had been raped there.
Many of the women found in Sowell's home had been missing for weeks or months, and some had criminal records. Some of the victims' families accused police of failing to properly investigate the disappearances because most of the women were addicted to drugs and lived in an impoverished neighborhood.