YOUNGSTOWN - A judge agreed to move the trial of a man accused of taking part in an off-campus shooting at a fraternity party in February 2011.
Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge John Durkin said Thursday the recent conviction of Mark Jones' brother, Columbus Jones, of murder and 11 counts of felonious assault almost guarantees it would be hard to seat an impartial jury in Mahoning County.
''From that trial and sentencing, both counsel and the court are as convinced as we can be that it would be difficult if next to impossible to select a jury in Mahoning County,'' Durkin said.
Durkin said he is searching for a court to try Mark Jones, 21, on charges of murder and felonious assault for the death of Jamail Johnson, 25, and the wounding of 11 others at the Indiana Avenue home just off the campus of Youngstown State University on Feb. 6, 2011.
Police and prosecutors say Mark Jones gave his brother the gun that was used in the shooting, which they say stemmed from a series of arguments and fights at the party.
Also to be tried with Mark Jones is Jamelle Jackson, 20, on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
Columbus Jones was convicted in August after a nearly two-week trial and sentenced to 92 years in prison.
Mark Jones' attorney, Thomas Zena, filed the request for change of venue after the conviction and sentencing of Columbus Jones, saying the publicity from his case would make it hard to find an impartial jury in the trial of his brother.
For the trial of Columbus Jones, it took more than a week to seat the jurors. Assistant prosecutor Becky Doherty said that was a hard process as well. She said about 15 jurors were dismissed from the case during the selection process after they were found to have discussed the case with others.
Durkin said he has been searching for a county to hear the case that is not in the umbrella of the local media, which rules out Trumbull and Columbiana counties. He said officials in Portage and Stark counties cannot accommodate the trial, so Durkin has now had the court administrator contact Summit County to see if it can be held there.
The court is looking at a trial date of mid-November for Mark Jones, Durkin said.
Johnson's mother, Shirlene Hill, said she had no problem with the change of venue.
''Whatever he (Durkin) decides, I'm with him,'' Hill said. ''I just want it to be fair for all.''
Durkin said he will preside over the trial and his bailiff and court reporter will also be present. Security arrangements need to be worked out with the respective sheriff's offices, Durkin said.
In another motion, Durkin denied a motion by Jackson's attorney, Doug Taylor, to have a special prosecutor appointed. Taylor filed the motion because Jackson's father, Jeffrey Riddle, is serving a prison term for the attempted murder of Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains.
Durkin said he has seen no evidence that Doherty has treated Jackson any differently and, in fact, Doherty is not from Mahoning County originally and had no idea who Riddle was before she was handed the case.