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YOUNGSTOWN Judge denies man's request for new trial



Published: Fri, August 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



One of the jurors said one thing in an affidavit and the opposite in the courtroom.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- An East Marion Avenue man's request for a new trial was denied Thursday by Judge Maureen A. Cronin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Melvin Hughes, 31, is serving 36 years to life in prison for aggravated murder, aggravated burglary and using a firearm. He killed 25-year-old Eugene McKinney with an AK-47 assault rifle at McKinney's Ferndale Avenue home in September 2001.

Hughes' lawyer, Douglas B. Taylor, asked for a new trial based on information he found out after the trial.

Taylor submitted an affidavit in which one of the jurors said he felt compelled to convict Hughes for fear of being prosecuted himself if he did not go along with the majority.

The juror, a 72-year-old Charlotte Avenue man, also said in the affidavit that he's a diabetic and was unable to take insulin shots during long deliberations. He changed his vote from innocent to guilty simply so he could go home and get his medication.

Claims denied

But on the witness stand during a hearing Thursday, the man denied both of those contentions and said he didn't realize what he was signing when he put his signature on the affidavit.

"I didn't have my glasses on, so I couldn't read it," he said. "The only reason I found [Hughes] guilty was because I thought he was guilty," the man said.

Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Franken argued that the issues Taylor raised via the juror's affidavit are not legal grounds for a new trial.

He said Ohio law prohibits a verdict from being overturned based on what a juror says took place in the locked jury room during deliberations. Any misconduct would have to take place outside the jury room and be witnessed by an independent observer, he said.

The rule is in place to protect the sanctity of jury deliberations.

"Otherwise, we'd have something like what happened in Jim Traficant's case, where some juror gets squeamish and says they're having second thoughts," Franken said. "If that were allowed, we'd never have any finality of verdicts."

Judge Cronin agreed with Franken and denied the request for a new trial.

Taylor said he'll take the case to the 7th District Court of Appeals.

bjackson@vindy.com




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