Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Irwin heads back to court

By MARY ANN GREIER (mgreier@reviewonline.com)
POSTED: March 23, 2010

LISBON - A trial date of Sept. 21 has been set for Andrew Irwin's second defense against a murder charge alleging that he stabbed 21-year-old Emily Foreman to death in August 2006.
Irwin returned to Columbiana County for the first time since leaving for prison in 2007 after a jury convicted him of murder and Judge C. Ashley Pike sentenced him to 15 years to life.
He appeared Monday for a hearing in Common Pleas Court before Pike with his new attorney, Senior Assistant Public Defender Gregory Meyers, by his side. His parents sat behind him in the courtroom. The victim's mother and two aunts also sat in the courtroom.
Pike approached the subject of bond and ordered Irwin be held in the county jail without bond for now after Meyers indicated he wanted to become more familiar with the case before making his request for bond. Even if bond is denied or is set and can't be posted, Irwin will remain in the county jail pending trial.
A motions hearing is set for 1 p.m. April 29, with a telephone conference set for 2 p.m. April 26. A status hearing is set for 3 p.m. Sept. 3.
Meyers filed several motions Monday, including one asking the new trial be moved to another county and one asking the court to stop law enforcement, jail personnel, inmates and anyone else from talking to his client about the case.
He said Irwin was very concerned that there not be any intrusion into the sanctity of his right to remain silent.
"Because of the notoriety of defendant's case, various personnel could entice defendant into a discussion of the case," the motion said.
The 28-year-old former East Liverpool resident won a new trial after appealing his conviction and sentence. The 7th District Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in September and the Supreme Court of Ohio denied the prosecution's appeal of the overturned conviction. The appellate court cited ineffective assistance of counsel as one of the reasons for the reversal.
Irwin's former trial counsel, George Kafantaris, was disbarred due to incidents in Trumbull County. He reported to the county jail earlier this month to begin serving a 20-day jail term for two counts of contempt of court related to some of his actions during Irwin's murder trial.
During the hearing, Meyers raised the issue of the motion to restrain anyone from talking to Irwin about his case, noting his contact with Sheriff's Office deputies. County Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Gamble pointed out that the only contact he would have with the Sheriff's Office would be during transport to the courthouse for hearings since the jail is under the control of a private company. He noted the county doesn't have any control inside the jail.
Pike said that's about the best he could do at this time. All the motions will be addressed during the motions hearing, giving the prosecution time to prepare a response. The attorneys agreed that some of the motions regarding discovery and turning over of evidence could probably be handled between themselves.
Meyers also asked for payment of fees related to witnesses, appropriation of funds for an investigator at an estimated cost of $1,400 for 40 hours at the rate of $35 per hour for Ohio Public Defender investigators, and that the defendant appear in civilian clothing without restraints at all proceedings.
As for the change of venue, he said the location of the trial needs to be changed "to a county distant enough to avoid a jury pool tainted by the publicity that has saturated Columbiana County and, presumably, contiguous counties."
He said he would supplement his motion with additional information after he's had time to gather evidence to prove what he thinks is "readily apparent: unbiased and impartial jurors cannot be seated in Columbiana County due to the publicity surrounding Mr. Irwin's first trial; his new-trial motion litigation; his successful appeal; and the matters swirling around his first trial counsel (disciplinary action resulting in disbarment; incarceration for contempt imposed in connection with Mr. Irwin's first trial)."

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