George Skatzes is one of the so-called “Lucasville Five,” who were convicted of various crimes that occurred during the 1993 Lucasville Riot. Skatzes is currently on death row based largely on testimony provided by an unreliable informant who had an incentive to provide false testimony.
A number of scholarly research projects have addressed the unreliability of uncorroborated informant testimony and both the ABA and ALI (American Law Institute) have published reports on this issue. Nevertheless, many state and federal courts permit juries to hear informant testimony without any counter evidence about the unreliability of that testimony. This failure has the effect of denying defendants a fair and impartial trial. Experience has revealed that oftentimes informants may have a separate agenda or incentive to provide false testimony which creates issues with fairness and impartiality. Alice and Staughton Lynd will prepare, under the auspices of the ACLU of Ohio, an amicus brief focusing on the unreliability of informant testimony in death penalty cases to be filed in the case of Skatzes v. Smith and made available as a form brief to other criminal defense attorneys challenging the unreliability of informant testimony.
Skatzes filed his traverse on Jan. 7, 2011. We filed a motion asking permission to file an amicus brief on Jan. 13, 2011, which was granted on Jan. 14. We filed our amicus brief in support of Skatzes' traverse on Jan. 14, 2011. The parties are currently involved in the discovery process. The parties are briefing the effect of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Cullen v. Pinholster (see explanation under Hasan v. Ishee). On February 24, 2012 the Court granted in part and denied in part Skatzes’ motion for discovery. Counsel is looking into presenting subsequent briefing to the Magistrate regarding the issues of gateway innocence, as well as comparing discovery that was granted in the companion cases, yet was possibly denied here. That analysis will be included in briefings due on April 1, 2012. They will let us know if anything is needed from us as amicus. Skatzes filed a Motion for Renewed Discovery on April 2, 2012. A Motion for Leave to File a Statement Out of Time a was filed by the respondent Warden and granted with a deadline of May 1, 2012. On May 1, 2012 the Warden filed his response. A scheduling conference to resolve discovery issues took place June 7, 2012 and the Motion for Renewed Discovery was granted to the extent set forth in a court order and otherwise denied. The Court granted a Motion for Protective Order requested by the Warden on June 15, 2012. Parties filed a Joint Motion for Leave to take the Deposition of Records Custodian of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction which the Court granted on August 3, 2012. On August 3, 2012 Skatzes filed a Motion for Protective Order. On December 11, 2012 Skatzes filed a Motion for Extension of Time in order to examine discovery documents. The motion was unopposed and was granted by the Court on December 12, 2012. On February 27, 2013 Skates filed another Motion for Extension of Time which was unopposed. The Court granted the motion the same day and time to examine discovery documents is extended through April 29, 2013. On April 25, 2013 Skatzes filed another Motion for Extension of Time which was unopposed. The Court granted the motion the next day and time to examine discovery documents was extended to June 28, 2013. On May 8, 2013 Skatzes filed a motion to stay previously filed dispositive motions. On May 13, 2013 Defendants filed a response and on May 15, 2013 Skatzes filled a reply to that response. On May 22, 2013 the Motion to Stay was denied. Status conferences were held on July 31, 2013 and August 8, 2013. On November 4, 2013, Skatzes filed a Motion for an Extension of Time to file discovery documents under seal. The motion was granted the following day. The date for the submission of discovery materials was January 21, 2014.