An Ohio man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 21 years received a $1.3 million settlement from the state last week for a crime he wasn’t only innocent of, but evidence suggests may not have happened at all.
Ralph Blaine Smith, 49, was first arrested at the age of 24 for armed burglary and trespassing in Pickerington in 2000, according to WSYX, the local ABC affiliate.
Smith’s attorney, Joseph Landusky, told media that his client’s first defense attorney had not presented sufficient evidence to prove his innocence in more than two decades.
“He was sentenced to 67 years in prison for a crime that was not even committed by anyone,” Landusky said of Smith. “When first responders showed up, there were no footprints in the snow. It had recently snowed. There was a dog barking right next door when they pulled up, the neighbors said no dog had barked in the last hour.”
The crash report showed there were no tire tracks, and Landusky said the scene led investigators to believe there had been no foul play.
According to the original 2000 handwritten incident report obtained by WSYX, the investigating officer wrote, “Upon arrival, we secured the perimeter, indicating there were no fresh footprints in the snow prior to the tactical entry.”
“I fought hard studying case law, reading the law books, just being there for hours and hours,” he said. “That was my time. It was like I got to go to the law library. Every day, that’s what it was for years.”
“How can you replace 21 years in prison?” Landusky asked. “You can’t. If I offered you $50 million to go to prison now and get out in 21 years, there’s no amount of money that I could give you that you would do that.”
Smith was eventually granted his freedom after the district attorney asked the judge to dismiss his case. After 21 years in prison, Smith broke down in tears upon his July 4, 2021 release.
Smith told the newspaper that he spent most of his time in prison studying law and trying to prove his innocence.