Security tight during Nasser Hamad’s trial opening today

WARREN — The capital murder trial of the Howland man accused of shooting two people dead and wounding three others outside his state Route 46 home begins today amid concerns about security in and around the Trumbull County Courthouse.

Jury selection is expected to begin today in the trial of Nasser Hamad, 48, in the third-floor courtroom of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald J. Rice. Hamad is facing two counts of aggravated murder that carry the death penalty and six counts of attempted aggravated murder.

Rice said Tuesday that court officials met with Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe in the morning to discuss security arrangements for the trial. Earlier, Rice issued a series of orders dealing with security and decorum in and around his courtroom during the trial. The order includes prohibiting protests or gatherings in and around the courthouse.

Meanwhile, a group called Justice 4 Nasser Hamad has scheduled a “Vigil for Justice” at noon today at Courthouse Square, according to a posting on www.Justice4Nasser.com.

Rice said a group of sheriff’s deputies and members of the Warren Police Department will be there to make sure things don’t get out of hand.

The case revolves around a confrontation between Hamad and occupants of a van that was driven to his home late in the afternoon of Feb. 25. Hamad and several of the van’s occupants had engaged in taunting and threatening behavior over social media prior to the shootings, according to a Howland police report.

Jury selection is expected to last through the week, court officials predict. After a jury is seated, the panel is expected to tour the shooting scene off a commercial stretch of state Route 46 just south of the busy state Route 82 interchange.

Although court officials are under a gag order in the case, a series of court filings show that defense attorneys are expected to try to prove that Hamad suffered from a post-traumatic stress disorder, caused by “constant threats of death” over a six-month period.

Assistant Trumbull County Prosecutors Christopher Becker and Michael A. Burnett are expected to argue that expert testimony to bolster self-defense claims should not be permitted because Hamad is not a battered woman or child.

In their pre-trial motions, Becker and Burnett paint a different picture of Hamad — someone who boasted to detectives after the shootings about successfully defending himself after he retrieved a 9 mm handgun inside his home and began firing at the group in the van.

No firearms were recovered at the scene where the five people were shot. A defense motion, however, talks about a written death threat left on Hamad’s front porch the night before the shootings. It also states that police found a large hunting knife just outside the van.

Killed in the shooting were Joshua Haber, 19, and Joshua Williams, 20. The three other gunshot victims were April Vokes, 43; John Shivley, 17; and Bryce Hendrickson, 20. Hendrickson, whose name was on a list of potential state witnesses, was found dead late last month from an apparent drug overdose.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com

Judge’s orders

Security and decorum orders have been issued for the capital murder trial of Nasser Hamad that is set to begin this morning with jury selection. The judge prohibits:

• Protests or other gatherings in or around the Trumbull County Courthouse. The order also bans signs, banners or messages on clothing in the courtroom;

• Citizens and media from gathering in courthouse hallways or other secured areas to talk or do interviews. Silence must be maintained during the proceedings. Gestures or inappropriate sounds also will be prohibited;

• Persons from entering or leaving the courtroom except during breaks.

Source: Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald J. Rice

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