Sells Denied DNA Testing On Bat

Miami County’s prosecutor said results of a requested DNA test of a baseball bat allegedly used by Mark D. Sells in the 2003 murder of Sharid Gantz of Tipp City would not be enough to overcome the “plethora of evidence” a jury heard before convicting Sells.

Prosecutor Tony Kendell made the statement in his response filed May 31 in Common Pleas Court to an application by lawyers representing Sells for post-conviction DNA testing of the handle of the aluminum baseball bat prosecutors said was used in the murder of Gantz Jan. 3, 2003, in his home.

Testing now available was not in use at the time of Sells’ trial, Donald R. Caster of the Ohio Innocence Project at the University of Cincinnati College of Law wrote in a memorandum supporting the testing.

“Scientific advances since then, however, create a strong likelihood that DNA-testing of the baseball bat used to kill Mr. Gantz would identify the perpetrator,” Caster wrote.

The memorandum specifies the testing of leather tape from the handle of the bat, which was located in a creek and had hair and blood of the victim on the barrel.

Caster said in the memorandum that the Sells case meets all requirements for the post-conviction DNA testing including the continued existence of evidence from the crime and a question at trial regarding who was the perpetrator. He also notes that there was “no physical evidence linking Mark to the crime.”

Sells at age 20 was convicted by a jury of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in Common Pleas Court on March 3, 2005, and sentenced the same month to 29 years to life in prison.

In the response, Kendell asks Judge Jeannine Pratt to deny the Sells request.

“Although the defense correctly sets forth the statutory criteria which are to be applied in the instant matter, it makes a flying leap in logic in concluding ‘that a DNA testing result in this case would clearly be outcome determinative’ and conveniently ignores the plethora of evidence that was relied upon by the jury in arriving at the guilty verdicts,” Kendell wrote. “In short, in light of the aforementioned evidence, any after the fact DNA testing would not be outcome determinative.”

Kendell pointed in the response to both witness testimony and forensic evidence presented to the jury at the trial in 2005.

The evidence included testimony by two juveniles with Sells the evening of the murder, others who encountered them that evening and a fellow jail inmate who said Sells told him about the murder.

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