YOUNGSTOWN Judge weighs reducing bond in case of slain baby
Atty. Mark Lavelle doesn't want to wait until May to take the case to trial.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A lawyer asked a judge Thursday to either let Janell Thomas out of jail or move up the date of her trial.
Thomas, 18, of North Garland Avenue, is in Mahoning County Jail with bond set at $1 million. She is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the October 2001 death of her 11-month-old son, Leroy Huff Jr.
The bond was set by Judge Theresa Dellick of juvenile court. That's where the case originated because Thomas was only 17 when she was charged. The matter was bound over to common pleas court for Thomas to stand trial as an adult.
Atty. Mark Lavelle of New Middletown, who represents Thomas, said there's no way Thomas can post a cash bond of any amount, so she has no chance of getting out of jail while she awaits trial.
About the bond: At a hearing Thursday, Lavelle asked Judge R. Scott Krichbaum to free Thomas on her own recognizance.
Judge Krichbaum refused to do that because of the serious nature of the charge. He said the bond, if he agrees to reduce it, would be no lower than $50,000.
"If we can't get her out of jail, I would like to bring in a jury and get this case to trial as soon as possible," Lavelle said. It's set for trial May 8, but Lavelle said he would like it to be sooner than that.
Judge Krichbaum questioned why the bond was set so high for an indigent defendant. Thomas' bond was originally $500,000, but was raised to $1 million by Judge Dellick after she found probable cause to bind the case over to the adult court.
Judge Krichbaum acknowledged that a bond reduction would appear futile since Thomas can't pay anything, but said he wants to ensure that her constitutional rights aren't being violated by such an excessively high amount.
He took the matter under advisement and said he will issue an opinion in writing.
About the case: Ohio law allows that certain criminal defendants can be held without bond if the evidence against them is compelling enough to show that the public's safety would be threatened by their release, but Lavelle said that's not the case. He said prosecutors have little to go on against Thomas.
But Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Franken said even though the case against Thomas is circumstantial, he believes it's strong enough to get a conviction.
"This child was beaten to death," Franken said.
A coroner's report said the baby suffered severe blows to the back of his head, causing four skull fractures and other injuries. Prosecutors say Thomas is the only one who could have inflicted those injuries.
Thomas has said the baby fell off a bed and hit his head on the floor, but Judge Dellick ruled there is no evidence to prove that.
The Trumbull County Coroner's office ruled the death a homicide. The child died at Forum Health Tod Children's Hospital, which is in Trumbull County.