Lawyers for man accused of killing Westerville officers seek to protect jury from outside influence

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Preparations for the Quentin Smith capital murder trial continued Friday morning as attorneys met with the judge to decide the outcome of dozens of motions.

Smith could face the death penalty for allegedly killing two Westerville police officers last year.
As in any capital case how the death penalty is presented as an option, should the case reach that point, was of great concern.

Many of the motions heard before Judge Frye today revolved around this.

However, several dealt with other issues including how to protect a jury from undue outside influence, and decorum in the courtroom.

Judge Frye agreed with the defense and wants to protect jurors from being exposed to influence in his courtroom, the hallways of the floor it is on, the first floor of the courthouse where the entrance is, and the courthouse grounds outside the building.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien agrees that preventing people from influencing the jury is vital to a fair trial, and did not object to restricting free speech in the building.

However, he did express some concern over the reach of the court in public areas outside the building.
The judge and to draft rules to implement for this trial which is tentatively set for October.

Another restriction brought up was how to address police officers in uniform in the courtroom.

The defense and the judge do not want a sea of uniformed officers sitting in the gallery, which could similarly influence the jury. 

The defense is supposed to draft rules for the judge and prosecution to review.

O’Brien says uniformed officers who are in the building for other cases and want to stop in for a short time to see how things are going should be allowed to do so, and awaits a review of the defense’s proposal.

Finally, Marcy’s Law is throwing a wrench into capital cases.

The constitutional amendment passed by voters recently gives victims the right to have their impact statements given prior to sentencing.

Normally an impartial judge determines the sentence.

In a capital case, however, the jury that convicted the defendant recommends whether they will be put to death or serve a different sentence.

Judge Frye expressed concerns that Marcy’s Law did not take that into consideration. For now, the judge will allow victim impact statements during the sentencing portion of the case, if it reaches that point.

In all motion decisions, judge Frye told attorneys that should anything change in the next six months legally or statutorily at the legislature, they are encouraged to bring the matter up for reconsideration.
The gravity of the charges and potential sentence have all parties attempting to avoid any problems that could be brought up in appeal.

The prosecution, defense, and the judge will all meet again in August to begin clearing up any final issues before trial.

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