Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Photographer freed during appeal

Remaining six months in morgue case disputed

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati photographer Thomas Condon will be released from prison soon, but the legal dispute over his photos of bodies at the Hamilton County morgue is far from over.

The Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that it would be unfair to keep Condon locked up while prosecutors and defense attorneys argue over the final six months of his 18-month prison sentence.

Condon already has served one year of his sentence, which he received after a jury convicted him in 2001 on eight counts of gross abuse of a corpse.

The remainder of his sentence is in dispute because the appeals court has ordered a new trial on one of the charges.

If Condon wins his retrial, the last six months of his sentence would be wiped out.

For that reason, the appeals judges said, keeping Condon in prison risks punishing him for a crime he may not have committed.

Condon was convicted three years ago after a jury concluded he did not have permission to photograph bodies at the morgue. He posed the bodies with inanimate objects, such as seashells, dollhouse furniture and sheet music.

Condon claimed the photos were part of an art project and that morgue officials were aware of his activities. But prosecutors said Condon had permission only to do research for a training video, not for his project.

Although the appeals court ordered a new trial, Judge Norbert Nadel refused to release Condon.

Prosecutors are appealing the appeals court ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court and asked that Condon remain in prison until that issue is resolved.

But the three appeals court judges - Mark Painter, Rupert Doan and Lee Hildebrandt - said Condon should be released. He will be freed without bond from the Noble Correctional Institution in eastern Ohio as early as today.


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