- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

LORAIN, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio inmate who argues he was wrongly convicted in a 1991 slaying in northeast Ohio and wants a new trial has been denied permission to appeal a lower court ruling on the matter.

A federal appeals court refused Alfred Cleveland permission to appeal the ruling that denied him a new trial. The ruling was handed down last week in the August 1991 killing of 22-year-old Lorain prostitute Marcia Blakely. The Lorain man was convicted of murder in 1996.

Defense lawyer J. Philip Calabrese said the court’s decision is “wrong” and “troubling,” considering the same court earlier concluded there’s evidence supporting his claim of innocence.

“No juror properly instructed by a judge following the law would vote to convict beyond a reasonable doubt,” Calabrese said. “When all that is at issue is whether to hear an appeal, it’s very troubling the Sixth Circuit would not.”

Calabrese said he is still deciding on how to proceed.

The only trial witness against Cleveland -William Avery Jr., who describes himself as a crack addict - later recanted his testimony several times that he saw the killing. Concerns about Avery led former Attorney General James Petro to support Cleveland’s bid for a new trial.

The appeals court said Cleveland’s legal team didn’t demonstrate that the prosecution should have known the witness was lying.

“Avery changed his story multiple times, and courts have disagreed over which version of the story was untruthful. Cleveland has provided no evidence that the prosecution knew that Avery’s testimony was false at the time of the trial,” the court wrote in its Feb. 24 ruling.

Cleveland, 46, is serving life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

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