Jacobs Field Three

Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Date of Crime:  June 11, 2002

Clinton Oliver, Donald Krieger and Andrew Mendez attended a Cleveland Indians baseball game at Jabobs Field in Cleveland. They had upper level seats. After the game began, Oliver and Krieger moved to box seats at ground level while Mendez stayed in the upper deck. At the top of the ninth inning, an explosion occurred in the lower level seats, which injured four people. Witnesses offered contradictory statements about the device that caused the explosion, but one described it as a “small soup can,” thrown from the upper level. Stadium authorities arrested the three men because their tickets had adjoining upper level seat numbers above the explosion site. Oliver and Krieger were held for four days before a security camera showed they were seated at ground level when the explosion occurred.

Mendez was not as fortunate. Even though no one saw him throw the explosive device, he was convicted at a bench trial of charges related to the incident and sentenced to three years in prison. He was paroled after seven months. Oliver and Krieger filed a civil suit against the city of Cleveland that alleged malicious prosecution, false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress. At the civil trial in Nov. 2006, Oliver testified he was a Marine home on medical leave when he was arrested, and he was prevented from re-enlisting because of the charges. There was also testimony that the three were held in an utterly filthy holding cell without mattresses or blankets for 96 hours. Oliver's attorney suggested that the police hoped to squeeze confessions out of them. The jury awarded Oliver and Krieger $400,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages.

Mendez appealed his conviction. Among his arguments was that a stadium surveillance tape showed the explosive device falling 16 feet in one second. In his brief Mendez included physics calculations that if the device was thrown from the upper level 63 feet above, it would have been falling at four times that velocity on the surveillance tape. Thus the calculations showed that it must have been thrown from the lower level. The Ohio Court of Appeals rejected this science-based argument. It stated that the calculations Mendez provided “requires explanation in order to apply. It contains terms that are not generally known such as ‘final velocity,’ ‘average velocity,’ and the ‘acceleration of gravity.’” The court then stated, “Judicial notice will not be taken of such scientific facts and matters, however, unless they are of such universal notoriety and so generally understood that they may be regarded as forming part of the common knowledge of every person.”

The Court of Appeals upheld Mendez's conviction in June 2004 and the Ohio Supreme Court declined to review it in Dec. 2004. Oliver is so convinced of Mendez's innocence that after he received his jury award he said he was going to use the money to hire an attorney for his friend's fight to exonerate himself. [4/07]


References:  Justice: Denied, Appeals

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Eastern Ohio Cases