Defense: no death penalty for Trimble

Amanda Garrett

Lawyers argue over importance of destroyed evidence


Credit: Beth Rankin

Lawyers for James E. Trimble, accused of killing three people, including a Kent State student, have asked for the dismissal of his capital punishment indictments.

Motions filed in the Portage County Common Pleas Court on July 15 contend the death penalty charges should be dropped because the state destroyed crucial evidence proving Trimble was in a drug-induced state of psychosis at the time of the killings.

The state destroyed a pair of bloody underwear, which would prove that Trimble was under the influence of methamphetamines, antidepressants and alcohol the day of the murders, wrote Trimble’s public defenders Dennis Lager and John Laczko in their motion.

In their responses filed last Friday, the prosecution contends the underwear is not relevant because there were other blood and hair samples taken from Trimble which could be used for testing.

The motion also states that a doctor at Robinson Memorial Hospital who examined Trimble failed to do a blood test to determine if any drugs were in his system.

Trimble was taken to the hospital after his arrest to be treated for injuries and a possible drug overdose.

According to the defense motion, Trimble, 44, who admits to a 20-year methamphetamine addiction, took three-quarters of a gram of methamphetamine, prescription medication, Vicodin and alcohol before he killed his girlfriend Renee L. Bauer, 42, her son Dakota, 7, and Kent State student Sarah A. Positano, 22.

Prosecutors allege that on the night of Jan. 21, Trimble shot Bauer and her son in their Sandy Lake Road home in Brimfield Township. After the killings, Trimble engaged in a gun battle with police and then went to Positano’s Ranfield Road duplex where he took her hostage and eventually shot her.

The motion also alleges Trimble was sodomized with a blunt object by officers of the Summit Metro SWAT team. Trimble’s lawyer asked for a physical examination and requested that all physical evidence related to the allegations — including a pair of bloody underwear — be preserved.

The defense counsel alleges that the Portage County Sheriff’s Office destroyed the underwear and then attempted to conceal it from them.

The prosecutor’s response contends that the sheriff’s office noticed nothing unusual about the underwear and followed regular procedure in the handling of the item.

Both sides are currently under a gag order imposed by Judge John A. Enlow, but in earlier media reports Portage County Prosecutor Victor V. Vigliucci said that no evidence of sodomy had been found during Trimble’s examination.

The defense also brought a motion to suppress police statements that Bauer and Dakota were going to leave Trimble “for an extended period of time” prior to the shootings. The defense wished to suppress police evidence that Trimble and Positano had an extended struggle before her death.

Defense lawyers contend the statements are nothing more than police speculation and opinion.

The defense also wants to bar friends and family of the victims from the courtroom during the presentation of evidence “which is anticipated to evoke significant and uncontrollable outbursts, all of which will impact the passions of the jury.”

In addition, the defense would like to suppress the use of 911 calls made by Positano as evidence. The defense claims the calls “will allow listeners to hear Sarah Positano die.”

Family and friends would be able to watch the proceedings on closed circuit television, the defense motion said.

Judge Enlow will hold a hearing on the motions this Friday. Trimble’s trial is set to begin Sept. 19.

Contact on-campus reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].