Man convicted of murdering YSU student appeals murder conviction - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Man convicted of murdering YSU student appeals murder conviction and death penalty

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - A man accused of murdering Youngstown State University student Gina Tenney back in 1985 is taking his fight to the Ohio Supreme Court.

In 2008 Bennie Adams was found guilty of murdering Tenney. The 19-year-old victim had been robbed, raped nad her body tossed in the river.

Adams appellate attorneys, Lynn Mauro and John Juhasz, argued there were constitutional errors made at the trial court level. They are asking the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn the conviction and death sentence.

Adam's attorneys claim there was an improper search of another man's coat pocket that led to police finding Tenny's ATM card, which led police to ask Adams girlfriend for permission to search the apartment, which led to even more evidence being found.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Conner said, "So they would not have found her TV, the keys, or potholder, and they would not have got to the DNA?" Attorney Lynn Mauro replied, "Yes."

But there were many witnesses who told police Tenny was in fear of Adams who was stalking her.

Justice Paul Pfeifer asked, "Wouldn't the defendant have come into focus without what was found in the apartment?" Attorney John Juhasz replied, "Yes."

Attorney Lynn Mauro argued that because a unanimous jury never found Adams guilty of a rape, robbery, or burglary during the commission of the murder, that the death penalty under Ohio law cannot be imposed.

Justice William O'Neil asked whether Adams had been found guilty of rape, or burglary, or kidnapping. Attorney Mauro said, "No." O'Neil then asked, "How are we going to affirm putting him to death?" Attorney Lynn Mauro replied, "We cannot."

The statute of limitations barred Adams from being convicted for those crimes, however the matter is complicated since jurors were never asked to specify on the jury verdict forms which other felony, in addition to murder, was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger told the attorney for the state handing the appeal, "We would be going into new territory to say when you have passage of time you don't need a felony conviction to support the felony murder specification." His response was, "Yes."

The 7th District Court of Appeals has already rejected the arguments. The Ohio Supreme Court will make it's decision at a later date.

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