HAMILTON, Ohio — One of two men convicted of murder for the arson fire that killed a Hamilton firefighter continues to appeal his conviction pointing to another person as the actual culprit.
William “Billy” Tucker, now 55, is serving a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years in the 2015 death of Hamilton Firefighter Patrick Wolterman. His latest appeal was upheld last week by the 12th District Court of Appeals.
Following a seven-day trial in 2017, Tucker, of Richmond, Ky., and his uncle Lester Parker, who died in prison, were convicted of the felony charges for the fire at Parker’s Pater Avenue home that killed Wolterman on Dec. 28, 2015.
Both men denied any involvement in the deadly fire when they took the stand to testify in their own defense, but the prosecution proved the men conspired to set the house ablaze for insurance money. Parker and his wife were vacationing in Los Vegas when Tucker traveled from Kentucky and started the fire in the home’s basement.
Tucker’s latest appeal attempt comes after his direct appeal was upheld by the 12th District Court of Appeals and the trial judge Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Stephens denied his motion to set aside the conviction.
In the appeal for post-conviction relief, Tucker claims he did not see statements from six witnesses until after trial when his mother mailed his discovery evidence to him in prison. Tucker argued the statements demonstrate another person was the “perpetrator of the crimes for which he was convicted, and that there is ‘nothing in the record’ to support a finding by the trial court that the witness statements were provided to the defense prior to trial.”
In a unanimous decision, the 12th District Court of Appeals judges disagreed.
The names and statements from the witnesses Tucker cited were given to the defense attorney well before trial, the appellate opinion states.
The six witness statements cited by Tucker were either inadmissible due to their content or are irrelevant to Tucker’s defense, the opinion said.
“We also note that there was sufficient evidence introduced at trial to establish Tucker as the perpetrator,” Appeals Judge Robin Piper said in the opinion.
Parker died in prison in 2020. His appeal was upheld by the 12th District before his death.
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On appeal, Parker argued several errors at trial. He said he was prejudiced when the court failed to sever his case from Tucker’s, the court did not instruct the jury on lesser included offenses and the prosecution committed acts of misconduct during jury selection and closing argument.
The 12th District Court Of Appeals disagreed on all arguments by Parker.
“The court did not plainly err in failing to instruct the jury on lesser included offenses, where the proposed offenses were not lesser, included offense of the charged offenses and the facts at trial would not have supported a lesser included offense instruction. The defendant was not deprived of a fair trial based on alleged instances of misconduct by the prosecutor throughout the trial,” according to the opinion.
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