A Columbus man who has been incarcerated for nearly 16 years for a violent armed robbery was expected to be released on bond Wednesday, one week after a Franklin County judge granted him a new trial.
Richard H. Horton, now 45, was arrested in December 2004 and convicted by a jury in February 2006 of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, kidnapping and felonious assault for the incident, which occurred at a home in Columbus' Milo-Grogan neighborhood.
He was sentenced to 23 years in prison by then-Common Pleas Judge John F. Bender.
On Jan. 12, Common Pleas Judge Colleen O'Donnell granted Horton's motion for a new trial based on DNA evidence that wasn't available at the time of the trial.
O'Donnell set Horton's bond at $25,000 during a Wednesday morning hearing. Brian Howe, a staff attorney with the Ohio Innocence Project who represented Horton in his bid for a new trial, said he expected his client to post bond and be released later Wednesday.
"Mr. Horton has been fighting this for the last 17 years," Howe said, referring to the time since Horton was arrested. "He has never waivered in his claim of innocence. He's looking forward to getting back to his family and ultimately being vindicated at trial."
O'Donnell set Horton's next court date, which will serve as a status hearing, for Feb. 24.
In 2019, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducted a DNA test, based on an agreement between the defense and prosecution, on a 9mm shell casing found at the scene of the crime.
The test findings excluded Horton as the source of the DNA.
O'Donnell wrote of the new DNA results, "There is a strong probability that they will change the result if a new trial is granted."
Horton's conviction was based entirely on eyewitness identification, Howe said. No physical evidence linking him to the crime was presented by prosecutors.
On the morning of Oct. 4, 2004, an armed robber forced his way into an apartment in the neighborhood southeast of East Fifth and St. Clair avenues and demanded cash. He robbed the male and female occupants, shooting the man in his leg and dragging him around the apartment before fleeing with $40.
At his 2006 sentencing hearing, Horton proclaimed his innocence, contending that it was a case of mistaken identify.
"Maybe the guy fits the same description," Horton told Judge Bender, according to The Dispatch's coverage of the hearing. "I'm willing to bet you know an innocent man when you see one."
Bender didn't budge, admonishing Horton for committing "a bald-faced robbery."
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Franklin County judge grants man new trial based on DNA evidence