Trimble jury selection nearing end

Jessica Alaimo

RAVENNA – After day four of jury selection in the triple-murder case against James E. Trimble, 39 of the desired 60 members of the final jury pool have been approved.

Yesterday, 12 more jurors were screened. Six were excused, four on the basis of prior bias, one because she opposed the death penalty and one because she was a full-time student who would bear a financial hardship if she spent a month in court. Today, Judge John Enlow hopes to interview 18 more.

The jurors were questioned about their prior knowledge and bias on the case, along with their views on the death penalty.

As attorneys and potential jurors discussed whether the potential jurors would sentence Trimble, 45, of Brimfield Township to death, he sat looking forward, motionless and expressionless.

Trimble is charged with killing three people, his girlfriend, her 7-year-old son and a Kent State student. The alleged murders occurred Jan. 21 in Brimfield.

On Tuesday, Trimble retracted his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. He has yet to enter a new one.

The case is being tried at the Portage County Court of Common Pleas in Ravenna. During yesterday’s jury screening, Enlow speculated that jury selection will last until Monday, and the trial immediately following it will last about 3 weeks.

There are 250 potential jurors in the pool. Fifty-four have been interviewed and 39 have been approved.

Enlow will stop interviewing them when he approves 60, and from that selection, 12 will be chosen with four alternates.

Yesterday the court excused more than usual.

“Some days you will excuse a lot, some days you won’t excuse any,” Enlow said.

The case is proving to be costly for the county. Neither the prosecutor’s nor the auditor’s office could provide numbers, but officials in the prosecutor’s office said that money would be extracted from every county department to cover costs. The costs include attorney’s fees, paying jurors, hiring a temporary judge to handle Enlow’s usual case load and hosting witnesses who may come from out of state.

Attorneys continued to press jurors on their views of the death penalty. An aggravated murder case is the only case where jurors have a hand in deciding the penalty, Enlow said. The jurors need a unanimous vote to approve the penalty; otherwise, if guilty, the defendant would get a life sentence – with or without parole.

“Do you understand the awesome power that you have as an individual to vote for death or to vote for life?” one attorney asked a potential juror.

Defense attorneys also repeatedly stressed the extensive media coverage the case has attracted. Defense attorney Dennis Lager said that the Record-Courier has printed 40 front page articles since January. Anyone stating they had a bias because of all the coverage was immediately dismissed.

One potential juror said the prior coverage of the case “would affect my ability to be fair and impartial.” He was excused.

Enlow said he was surprised how many potential jurors came in with no knowledge of the case.

“It never ceases to amaze me how many haven’t read anything,” Enlow said.

Contact city editor Jessica Alaimo at [email protected].