Judge upholds murder conviction
Associated Press
[From the Dayton Daily News: 12.11.2002]

AKRON | A judge has rejected a new trial request from a convicted rapist and killer whose niece reversed her incriminating testimony after hypnosis.

In a 54-page ruling Monday, Summit County Common Pleas Judge John Adams ruled that the recanted testimony of Clarence Elkins’ 10-year-old niece lacked credibility due to ‘‘highly suggestive and questionable techniques.’’

Elkins, 39, is serving a life sentence for the June 1998 rape of his niece and the murder of his mother-in-law, Judith Johnson, 58, of nearby Barberton.

A jury convicted him in 1999, primarily on the testimony of his then 6-year-old niece and friends of Johnson who claimed that Elkins threatened his mother-in-law for meddling in his marriage.

Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said the recantation was not credible. She said the child had been ‘‘coached and subjected to suggestive actions’’ by those close to Elkins.

Adams said Elkins’ defense team concealed a hypnosis session the girl underwent before recanting.

‘‘Although the child-victim had not changed her story of the attack for almost four years, she only did so after being approached by those people interested in the outcome of the case,’’ Adams wrote.

The judge had presided over the trial and sentenced Elkins to life in prison.

Adams denied requests to vacate the conviction or to hold a new trial or an evidence hearing. He also denied motions to collect hair samples and conduct DNA testing of another man that Elkins’ family suspects.

Adams said it is up to the prosecutor, not him, to order tests. He said affidavits by several people about the man were not credible.

Elkins’ wife, Melinda, said the family would fight Adams’ decision.

His lawyer, Elizabeth Kelley, plans to appeal.

‘‘My position and the family’s position is that an innocent man is suffering in prison, and we will not stop until he is freed,’’ she said.

Prosecutors contend Elkins left a bar near his Magnolia home, drove 40 minutes to Johnson’s home, beat her to death, beat and raped his niece and then returned home.