Court Roundup

Ohio

Prosecutors hope to use blinks as testimony

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Prosecutors in southwest Ohio say a dying man identified his killer through a series of blinks of his eyes.

But the suspect's attorney says the blinks aren't conclusive and shouldn't be allowed as evidence. A county judge in Cincinnati will rule on the matter.

Ricardo Woods was charged with murder in the shooting death last year of David Chandler.

Police interviewed Chandler while he was hooked up to a ventilator, paralyzed after being shot in the head and neck. The 35-year-old man died about two weeks later.

Hamilton County authorities say Chandler and Woods were involved in drug deals. They say Chandler identified Woods' photo by blinking.

Woods' attorney Kory Jackson tells The Cincinnati Enquirer police brought a priest to anoint Chandler and persuade him he was dying.

Louisiana

Jury selection starts in capital murder trial

AMITE, La. (AP) -- Attorneys say jury selection could last a week in the capital murder trial of a man accused of killing his girlfriend and her two children.

The Advocate reports state Judge Wayne Ray Chutz ordered 500 people summoned for jury duty Monday in Amite.

That's about 200 more than normal, said Clerk of Court Julian Dufreche, whose office sends out jury notices.

Jury selection could take anywhere from a couple of days to a full week, the attorneys said.

"Anyone that has heard about the case, we are going to be very suspect," said defense attorney Michael Thiel. "We are looking for people who can consider mitigating factors and come in with an open mind."

The trial could last from four days to a week, said Assistant District Attorney Don Wall.

Michael Varnado, 33, is accused of the Feb. 16, 2007, smothering death of his girlfriend, Juana Quantrell Roberts, 20, of Hammond; setting her Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer on fire; and leaving her infant and toddler behind in the burning trailer.

The children died of smoke inhalation, investigators have said.

If Varnado is convicted of first-degree murder, a second trial would begin to determine whether he would receive the death penalty or life in prison, Wall said.

Varnado also has been indicted on a charge of aggravated kidnapping, Wall said.

In that case, Varnado is accused of kidnapping an elderly woman in Mississippi and forcing her to accompany him as he drove to Hammond after the fire which killed Roberts and her children, Wall said.

Varnado's trial originally was scheduled for Aug. 19, 2008, but was delayed due to scheduling conflicts from Assistant District Attorney Don Wall and defense attorney Mike Thiel.

It was postponed again in July and August of 2010.

Those delays were caused by a strand of hair that was lost at the State Police Crime Laboratory and then found months later.

Ohio

Judge drops remaining cases against killer

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A judge in Ohio has dismissed the remaining criminal charges against a convicted serial killer sentenced to death last month.

Judge Dick Ambrose in Cleveland on Monday approved a prosecution motion to drop two remaining cases against 52-year-old Anthony Sowell (SOH'-wehl), to save on trial costs and avoid having to ask two women to testify again about alleged attacks by Sowell.

Both women testified at Sowell's murder trial in the deaths of 11 women. The two told prosecutors they did not want to proceed with the other cases, one alleging rape and kidnapping and the other involving kidnapping and attempted murder charges.

Prosecutors say the cases could be reinstated if Sowell's appeal succeeds in getting his murder convictions overturned. They say they doubt that would happen.

Georgia

Court upholds Open Meetings fines

ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia's top court is requiring the city of Statesboro to pay the legal costs of residents who sued it for violating the state's Open Meetings Act.

The unanimous opinion released Monday upholds a Bulloch County judge's ruling that requires the city pay $4,250 in legal fees after it found the Statesboro mayor and city council met outside the Statesboro City Hall chambers to discuss the city's 2011 budget.

A group of residents sued the city, mayor and five council members and sought an injunction barring any more "secret" meetings, and the city appealed after a judge ruled against it in September 2010.

The opinion written by Justice Harold Melton says "the Open Records Act explicitly authorizes the assessment of attorney fees."

Published: Tue, Sep 13, 2011

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