Eight potential jurors accepted in Trimble case

Audrey Wagstaff

RAVENNA – Judge John Enlow plans to move forward in the case against James E. Trimble today, completing the preliminary jury selection in the morning and hoping to select the final jury in the afternoon.

In the final selection, Enlow, a judge in the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, along with prosecution and defense attorneys, will whittle the pool of 60 to 65 potential jurors down to a final 12 with four alternates.

Yesterday was the seventh day of jury selection in the triple-murder case against Trimble, 45, of Brimfield, who is being charged with aggravated murder for the deaths of his girlfriend, her 7-year-old son and a Kent State student Jan. 21.

When court adjourned yesterday, there were 55 potential jurors called back from the pool of about 100 who were interviewed.

Eight of the potential jurors were accepted yesterday out of 15 interviewed.

During yesterday’s questioning, the prosecution, led by Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci, continued to question potential jurors’ media exposure, instructing them that although jurors may have been subjected to media coverage about the trial, the media does not necessarily dictate the opinions they will develop toward the case.

Potential juror No. 180, a Kent State criminal justice student, told the prosecution. “I typically don’t subscribe too much to newspapers because I know the media has ways of turning things around,” he said.

Two potential jurors said they did not have preconceived notions about the case and understood that, as potential juror No. 180 put it, “the media has ways of turning things around.”

Three potential jurors were excused because they could not set aside preconceived opinions about Trimble or the case. Two more were excused because they said they had to take care of their sick parents.

Another, who happened to be a respondent to the scene of the crime in January, also asked to be excused because it would affect his ability to be fair. The last potential juror of the day was excused because of a two-week business trip conflicting with the trial.

Still others were to be excused because of opposition under any circumstance to the death penalty. According to Enlow, under Ohio law, in aggravated murder cases, if the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravated circumstances outweigh the mitigating factors, the jury should issue the death penalty.

Dennis Lager, public defender for Trimble, raised a concern in regards to death penalty questioning. In death penalty cases, Ohio law requires a unanimous decision during sentencing. Thus, if one juror is against the death penalty, the jury must continue deliberation to determine a life sentence.

Potential jurors 214 and 217 said they are religiously and morally opposed to the death penalty.

“Killing, whether by a person or the state is wrong,” said prospective juror number 217.

Tensions rose among court officials when, after repeated objections by the prosecutor to a defense question asking a potential juror if he would be able to sentence Trimble (if convicted) to life without parole even if he voted for the death penalty, Enlow asked the council to approach the bench and sent the juror out of the courtroom.

In such a circumstance, Enlow said he would step in and choose one of the life sentences: Life without parole, life with parole eligibility after 30 years or life with parole eligibility after 25 years.

Lager asked that the questioning be suspended until this morning.

Instead Enlow asked Lager to rephrase the question, adding the additional information, making sure everyone knows “no juror has to surrender his convictions” in the matter.

Questioning resumed, with an immediate objection by the prosecution.

Enlow replied with, “Overruled, let’s just get it done.”

Contact public affairs reporter Audrey Wagstaff at [email protected].