Selection of jurors for Trimble trial slower than judge hoped

RAVENNA – The jury selection for the triple-murder case against James E. Trimble is moving along, but not quite at the rate Judge John A. Enlow had hoped.

Enlow remarked in court Thursday that usually 70 percent of potential jurors in the pool are accepted, but on Friday only seven of the 17 potential jurors interviewed were asked to call back.

Trimble, 45, of Brimfield, is charged with the aggravated murders of his girlfriend, her 7-year-old son and Kent State student Sarah Positano Jan. 21 in Brimfield. He is being tried in the Portage County Common Pleas Court.

Enlow expects the court to complete jury selection Tuesday.

Last week 71 potential jurors were interviewed individually. Enlow explained the process to each, and lawyers on both sides asked them questions about any bias they had because of pre-trial media coverage and views on the death penalty.

“I kind of feel like I’m in Groundhog Day,” Enlow remarked at the end of Friday’s proceedings. “I can empathize with Bill Murray.”

Friday morning, the judge excused the first person because she said her daughter had class with Positano. The next was excused because she had preconceived notions of the trial, along with three others interviewed later that morning.

That afternoon, five potential jurors were dismissed. Three were excused for bias and two due to moral or religious beliefs on the death penalty.

Potential jurors were only referred to by number, not name, to protect their identity. Juror No. 157, a free-lance writer for the Record-Courier, was dismissed because of her beliefs.

“I could not be the person to order someone to death,” she said. “I think life-long in prison would be worse.”

One 19-year-old potential juror was hesitant when Trimble’s attorney, Dennis Lager, asked him if he could publicly sign a paper to end someone’s life. The court asked him to call back after he said he understood it was his responsibility to follow the court’s orders.

“It’s kind of a complicated process, but it’s how it works in Ohio,” Lager told him. “And it’s how we have a fair trial.”

Trimble again sat motionless during proceedings, speaking only briefly during a quick recess to ask Lager for a drink.

So far, 46 potential jurors have been asked to call back. Enlow hopes to have a pool of 60 to choose from before he proceeds with the final selection.

Proceedings begin at 8:30 a.m. today. Sixteen jurors have been asked to attend, Enlow said.

The final jury selection process will begin Wednesday, Enlow said, although he has not set an exact date for the trial to start. He estimates the trial will last two to three weeks.

Contact public affairs reporter Bethany Jones at [email protected] and city editor Jessica Alaimo at [email protected].