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TRUMBULL COUNTY No misconduct found with trial



Published: Sat, September 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The appeals judges cited prosecutorial misconduct.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- An assistant Trumbull County prosecutor did not commit misconduct during a rape trial.

That is the conclusion in a letter written by Jonathan E. Coughlan, disciplinary counsel for the Ohio Supreme Court, to Shelli Henderson, stating that his department investigated Henderson's complaints against Atty. Sarah Kovoor but did not find substantial, credible evidence of misconduct.

Henderson is the wife of Steven Henderson, who was convicted earlier this year of rape and is serving a life sentence with parole eligibility in 10 years.

Henderson was first convicted of raping the 11-year-old girl in 1998. He was given the same sentence at that time. That conviction, however, was overturned by the 11th District Court of Appeals last year and he was released on $50,000 bond.

Disagreement: The appeals court judges cited prosecutorial misconduct in overturning the conviction, but Coughlan wrote that his review of the court transcript led him to different conclusions than those of the court of appeals.

"Overall, we have concluded that while Ms. Kovoor's actions cause us concern, they do not rise to the level of actionable violations," Coughlan's letter states.

The court of appeals stated that Kovoor should not have given her personal opinion in opening statements and should not have used the phrase "drug addict" when referring to Steven Henderson.

Not intentional: Coughlan's letter indicates the belief that Kovoor did not intentionally try to mislead the jury when she said in an opening statement that "based on these witnesses, I believe that you will conclude as I have that this defendant is guilty of the crime charged."

The letter further notes that Steven Henderson admitted he was a felon and that he hung out with individuals his own lawyer characterized as associated with a crack house.

"While there may not have been clear, direct testimony in support of the assertion that Mr. Henderson was a drug addict, there was evidence in the record upon which such an inference could be drawn," Coughlan wrote.




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