Wednesday, July 29, 2009


State requests Amato delay
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LISBON - Another delay has been requested for the murder trial of Jack "J.C." Amato Jr., this time by the special prosecutor who said he needs more time to address a defense request to examine a bullet and the box where it was found.

"The State has had in its possession the .45-caliber bullet and box for two years. It is the defense that has waited until the month before the fourth trial date to ask that they be examined by a private laboratory," Special Prosecutor Lynn Grimshaw wrote in his motion for continuance.

Amato, 37, remains scheduled to face a jury trial on Aug. 18 for murder and having weapons under disability for the July 1, 2007 shooting death of his wife, Tonia, at their Wellsville residence. He claimed self-defense, saying she fired a gun at him after an argument and then he shot her with a .45-caliber handgun.

After the indictment came out, Amato was living at his father's Irondale residence under house arrest as a requirement of bail to stay out of jail. When investigators searched the Irondale house last September in relation to the murder investigation, they found guns and an alleged pipe bomb, leading to additional charges in a separate case. Amato has remained in custody at the county jail since then, under the indictment in the weapons case which is set for trial on Sept. 15.

A status hearing set for 9 a.m. Aug. 10 will now serve as a motions hearing on Grimshaw's motion for continuance to delay the trial and a defense motion to compel, demanding that the prosecution provide for the transportation of the bullet and box to a lab in the state of Washington and to turn over any reports in the evaluation of evidence taken from the house in May by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

In the motion which was filed July 16, defense attorney James Hartford wrote that in early May at the request of the defense, agents of BCI&I went to the Amato house at 1200 Commerce St., Wellsville, and removed "items of physical evidence uncovered when an expert retained by the defense examined the scene."

He said the items were to be evaluated, but no report has been given to the defense.

The motion also addressed the discharged bullet and box found at the house after the shooting, which according to previous documents was a bullet containing the DNA of the victim. He said the items needed to be shipped to the Columbia International Forensics Laboratory in Newport, Wash.

Grimshaw noted in his motion that this was the first time the prosecution asked for a continuance in this case, pointing out the defense had requested the three previous continuances shortly before the trial dates, after subpoenas had been issued by the state.

He said he spoke to the head of the lab in Washington, Gaylan Warren, and he suggested the bullet and box evidence not be shipped "until there is a court order filed stating that if the items are lost or damaged in the shipping process, evidence of the condition of the items, prior to being shipped, will be permitted at trial, by the state, without being contested."

Grimshaw said he will ship the items after an agreed court order is filed. As for the items taken from the house by BCI&I, he said he believed the items were obtained by the agents on June 25, not in May, and sent to the BCI&I lab for examination. He said no report has been received, but when it is, it will be provided to the defense.

In closing, he again pointed out the fact that the defense waited until shortly before the trial date to discover items it wanted examined, noting the defense had access to Amato's house for two years. He also pointed out that the defense attorneys knew he had time off scheduled the first week in August to celebrate the homecoming of his two sons from Afghanistan, meaning trial preparation, including issuance of subpoenas, had to take place in July.

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