- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

SPRINGBORO, Ohio (AP) - The next move in the case of former suburban police official convicted in connection with his wife’s 1995 death in their southwest Ohio home is up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The attorney for former Springboro Police Lt. Thomas “Jim” Barton wants the nation’s highest court to refuse an appeal by the Ohio attorney general’s office. The state wants the Supreme Court to resolve conflicts in lower-court rulings.

Barton’s attorney, Christopher Pagan, said in his response that state arguments are fact-specific and not worthy of Supreme Court attention. Pagan told the Dayton Daily News that he expects the court’s ruling in February.

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati in May agreed with Barton’s attorneys that authorities improperly withheld evidence that could have helped him against charges linking him to a botched burglary.

The three-judge 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled unanimously, saying that the state’s case relied heavily on a witness who presented an “unsupported, shifting and somewhat fantastical” story at trial. It said the suppression of evidence made it more difficult for Barton to discredit the state’s theory.

Authorities who charged Barton after a cold case team in 2003 examined his wife Vickie’s death contended that Barton had paid to stage a burglary to scare his wife into leaving their rural horse farm to move into the city, with the alleged motive being that it would help his chances of becoming Springboro’s police chief. Authorities said she was killed when the burglary went awry.

A jury convicted Barton in 2005 of complicity to involuntary manslaughter and complicity to aggravated burglary, and he was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. Barton, in prison more than a decade, is now 60.

If the Supreme Court rejects the state’s appeal, Warren County’s prosecutor would have six months to re-try Barton or see him released.

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