Dillard’s attorneys respond to requestBy MARY ANN GREIER (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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LISBON - Murder defendant Eric Dillard's attorneys filed a response this week asking Judge C. Ashley Pike to overrule the prosecution's request for him to rethink his decision on discovery in the case.
Defense attorneys James Hartford and Douglas King submitted the eight-page document Monday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court, criticizing both the prosecutor's office and local law enforcement over their reactions to the ruling which have been highlighted in news stories.
Discovery is the process used by prosecutors and defense attorneys to find out what the other side knows before trial, with Rule 16 requiring the disclosure of certain evidence, such as physical evidence, witness lists and witness statements which could be favorable to a defendant.
Pike issued an extensive order last month requiring the prosecution to provide complete witness statements to the defense, for the Wellsville police chief to submit a signed affidavit acknowledging that all evidence had been turned over to the prosecution and for the prosecution to provide background information about witnesses, evidence of past contacts between the defendant and governmental agencies and other requirements.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Gamble filed the motion asking Pike to reconsider his decision, asking him to review the witness statements first to determine whether they need to release the complete statements. If he finds they should be released, Gamble asked him to restrict defense counsel from disseminating the complete statements, saying some of the witnesses live in the same neighborhood as the defendant and could be intimidated. The common practice has been for the release of only the portion of a statement deemed necessary or exculpatory, favorable to the defendant. He also asked for clarification of some of the orders.
The situation with discovery in the case came to a head in December when a taped statement the defendant made to Wellsville Police in April finally surfaced. The statement had not been provided to the prosecution until December and then was turned over to the defense.
Dillard, 31, remains under electronically monitored house arrest in his Wellsville residence, charged with murder with a gun specification and having weapons under disability for the April 22, 2008 shooting death of 35-year-old Jamie Farley of East Liverpool. The shooting occurred outside Dillard's residence.
A final status hearing remains set for 2 p.m. April 17, with the trial set to start May 5.
Hartford and King asked Pike to overrule Gamble's motion for reconsideration in its entirety. They claimed the prosecution blamed the police when in court over the discovery issue, but in the presence of the police departments, the court was blamed for the discovery situation.
"The order of this court is designed merely to make sure that the police have told the prosecutor's office everything that they know. The order was made because the State of Ohio in this case blamed late disclosure of exculpatory information squarely on the police department. Now the State of Ohio in this case and in the public forum wants to defend the very police departments which they blame," the response said.
The response also suggested the prosecutor's office was "crying wolf" with its complaints about the background information for witnesses, saying the court did not order investigation of employment files for witnesses except in the case of law enforcement.
The response also made note that some discovery didn't occur until after a plea deal had been rejected by the defense.
As for the concerns of police departments over the discovery requirements, which the prosecution asked the court to outline for recent grand jury cases, Hartford and King wrote that it was "ludicrous" to suggest the court was ordering police and the sheriff to do the work for the defense.
They also raised concern with what they considered a suggestion to pressure the judge by law enforcement and township trustees in one news story.
A decision by the judge on Gamble's motion remains pending.