Selection of jurors to begin
WARREN – In a first for a capital murder case staged here, potential jurors called to hear testimony in the trial of David Martin will be greeted with a lengthy questionnaire designed to streamline the jury selection process.
On Thursday, after an estimated 100 to 200 subpoenaed jurors arrive at the Courthouse, Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan will introduce everyone to certain facts and players – including lawyers, witnesses and police – involved in the murder investigation in an effort to find out if anyone is close enough to the case to have formed an opinion on innocence or guilt of the defendant.
Martin is accused of killing 21-year-old Jeremy Cole and wounding Melissa Putnam on Sept. 27, 2012.
Cole was shot in the head and Putnam, 29, was shot in the hand. She’d put up her hand defensively, and the bullet traveled through her hand and into her neck. She recovered from her injuries after four days in the hospital.
Other possible jurors with economic or personal health hardships will most likely be excused after an explanation to the judge.
The remaining group of jurors will be handed a questionnaire more than 20 pages long to complete while still at the courthouse. Copies of the answered questionnaires will be given to prosecutors and defense attorneys to review over a long Labor Day holiday before individual questioning of the potential jurors begins the afternoon of Sept. 2.
Smaller groups of the jurors will be questioned about their background and beliefs, and whether they can weigh aggravated circumstances against mitigating factors, which would come into play if Martin is convicted and the trial advances to a penalty phase.
Martin could face the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder charge and the aggravated circumstances. He also faces firearms specifications on counts of aggravated robbery, kidnapping and a repeat violent offender specification, having weapons while under disability, receiving stolen property because it is alleged he used a stolen gun, and tampering with evidence because he tried to burn clothes that detectives said he wore during the crime.
The questioning could last into the next week before a jury of 12 and two or three alternates are seated from a pool of 36 to 40 potential jurors.
A defense team for Martin, who Logan recently ruled competent to stand trial, has also filed a motion for a change of venue to move the trial to another county based on what they claim is prejudicial and advance publicity on the trial. Logan isn’t expected to rule on that issue until lawyers are well into the jury selection process.
Martin was arrested in Cole’s murder nearly a month later after U.S. Marshals tracked him down in the Akron area, returning him here.
Martin, who grew up in Cleveland and sports tattoos linking him to gang activity, was sentenced in October of 2013 to almost 22 years in prison on a federal gun charge conviction after he was linked to what authorities described the ”Little D-Town” investigation into the drug and weapons pipeline between Warren and Detroit.
A federal prosecutor at the time called him ”an armed career criminal” since he had three previous violent felony convictions.
Martin has remained in Mahoning County Jail since Trumbull Sheriff’s Office officials named him as one of three inmates responsible for taking a corrections officer hostage April 23 in the Warren lockup
Martin and the other two inmates singled out as the hostage-takers were moved to Mahoning County while agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation continue to investigate the daytime abduction of officer Joe Lynn, who was released unhurt.
Sheriff Tom Altiere called in BCI for an independent investigation. That investigation was completed and turned over to county prosecutors for their review in mid-July.
In the Warren murder, Martin, who knew both Cole and Putnam, allegedly made Putnam tie up Cole at gunpoint, then Martin tied up Putnam. She said her face was covered with a towel as both were robbed.
During a pre-trial suppression hearing, Putnam identified Martin as an acquaintance with whom she dealt marijuana.
In the last capital murder case here, Louis Mann was convicted and escaped the death penalty last November. He was sentenced to two life sentences after the self-proclaimed drug addict, who stole from his parents, admitted that he strangled his mother, Frances M. Mann, 53, with a clothesline and shot his father, Philip J. Mann Sr., 59, with a .22 caliber rifle after beating him to death with a flashlight Sept. 30, 2011.