William “Billy” Pennington grew up imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit. Despite a lack of evidence and a witness recantation, his story has remained unheard until now.
Where the story begins...
On October 31, 2010,
Two armed suspects entered a Richie’s Restaurant in Bond Hill, Cincinnati intending to rob the establishment. After not being able to open the cash register, the suspect standing on the countertop shot the restaurant employee Antonio Smith. Weeks later, detectives interviewed seventeen-year-old Billy Pennington about his involvement in two separate robberies of pizza delivery drivers in the neighborhood.
“You are young, 18 years isn’t that long, you’ll be out at the age of 36. Take this deal because they have a guy testifying on you. If you don’t take the deal, you’ll have life in prison. You’ll die in prison.” — Advice from Timothy McKenna, Billy’s public defender
On September 26, 2011,
Billy Pennington pleaded guilty to three different charges. For over a decade, he has maintained his innocence in one of them: the murder of Antonio Smith. In 2011, Billy pushed his public defender to bring his case to trial, steadfastly claiming his innocence in the murder. But instead of developing a trial strategy to defend Billy’s innocence, Billy’s lawyer told him that the state’s “eyewitness” would certainly cause the jury to convict at trial.