John Pudelski is serving 15 years to life in prison after a jury convicted the former computer programmer from Euclid of murdering his baby daughter, Ellie, in March 1999.
Prosecutors say an autopsy determined that Pudelski used blunt force to fracture the baby's skull. But the Ohio Innocence Project, part of a national network that's helped exonerate 265 wrongly convicted felons, says photographs prove that the fracture occurred during a difficult 33-hour birth.
"If I had a tape of her birth, I would not be here today because that doctor's first words were not it's a girl," Pudelski said, during an interview with Channel 3 News at Trumbull Correctional Institution.
"His first words when my daughter was born were 'her head's really swollen and misshapen.'"
He says the photographs, including one discovered just days after the verdict, would back up the pathologists he called at trial who testified the baby died from birth injuries.
"It's right there, you can see it," Pudelski said. "They're not speculating. They're not theorizing. They're stating a fact and the picture proves that fact."
Courts have consistently refused to grant a new trial, saying the new photo evidence is too similar to what was already presented to the jury.
"His best prospect is that the governor sees what we saw," said attorney Edwin Vargas. "The science does not really support the verdict."
Prosecutors, however, say the bruise in the photos does not match the area where the skull fracture occurred. They also say the coroner testified the fracture happened within hours of the baby's death, not 12 days earlier as Pudelski claims.
"The man they have presented as this kind and loving man murdered his baby and he has never taken any responsibility for it or shown any remorse," said Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecutor Mary McGrath.
So far, there's been no word on Pudelski's clemency petition to the governor. There's also no guarantee Strickland, who once worked as a prison psychologist counseling convicted murderers, will get to it before leaving office Jan. 9. That's because the governor has more than 1,000 such petitions on his desk.