WARREN - A Trumbull County Common Pleas judge will be selected to preside over a wrongful imprisonment case filed against the state and former Attorney General Marc Dann.
A jury convicted Shawn Armstrong in 2001 on charges of complicity to aggravated murder and a firearm specification. The jury had found Armstrong guilty for his participation in the murder-for-hire of Bradrick McMillan. McMillan was a drug informant for police who was shot execution-style in the back of the head Aug. 9, 1998, at the Elks Lodge in Warren Township.
Trumbull Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Logan heard the case.
Armstrong originally was sentenced to serve 23 years to life; he was released after serving six years when the conviction was overturned by the appellate court with orders to retry the case.
The 11th District Court of Appeals ruled that statements made by a person who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the murder and hearsay evidence had been admitted improperly into the trial.
Prosecutors dismissed all charges against Armstrong in May 2006 citing the unavailability of five ''essential'' witnesses and the lack of cooperation of two co-conspirators who were already behind bars.
Armstrong now wants a judge to consider him a wrongfully imprisoned individual and eligible for compensation through the Ohio Court of Claims.
Prosecutors said Armstrong handled the murder weapon, drove the getaway car and collected the balance of the money paid to kill McMillan. They also said the hit was ordered to keep McMillan from testifying in an upcoming drug trial.
The prosecution did not claim Armstrong was involved in the planning of the hit, but only in its execution and aftermath.
Prosecutors said McMillan was to testify in the drug trafficking case of Lance Pough, who they say offered to pay $7,000 to have McMillan killed. Pough is serving an 18-year-to-life sentence and could not directly link Armstrong to the murder in his testimony at trial.
Meanwhile, Art Bell, who is serving an 11-year prison sentence for the murder and who was described as a ''middle-man'' in the murder for hire, told an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor that he ''does not and will not remember, any of the facts related to this case.''
''In the decision reversing Armstrong's conviction, the Court of Appeals stated Bell was the only evidence directly linking Armstrong to the murder. The court also ruled that the state could not use Bell's prior statement to impeach his testimony,'' prosecutors wrote in their motion to dismiss the charges against Armstrong.
In preparing for a criminal retrial prosecutors told Logan that Armstrong refused to accept any potential plea bargain.
In his lawsuit, Armstrong, 36, names the state of Ohio in care of Attorney General Marc Dann as defendants. The suit was filed before Dann's resignation earlier this year.