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MAHONING COUNTY Ruling releases name of witness



Published: Sat, February 9, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The teen was a witness in the hearing for Janell Thomas, accused of killing her 11-month-old son.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court has ruled that The Vindicator can publish the name of a 17-year-old witness.

Heather Upole has testified in a hearing to determine if there is cause to proceed with a case against Janell Thomas, 18, of 147 N. Garland Ave.

Thomas is accused of killing her 11-month-old son, Leroy Huff Jr., who died of head injuries Oct. 11 in Forum Health Tod Children's Hospital.

The Trumbull County coroner's office ruled the death a homicide.

Supreme Court: In her ruling, issued Friday afternoon, Judge Dellick cited a U.S. Supreme Court opinion stating that "those who see and hear what transpired [in the courtroom] can report it with impunity."

Judge Dellick presided over the hearing last month to determine if a charge of involuntary manslaughter against Thomas should go forward.

If she rules that it should, she will then have a hearing to determine if the case should stay in juvenile court or be moved to common pleas court, where Thomas would be tried as an adult.

On Jan. 25, Judge Dellick ruled in favor of a Vindicator request to allow the press to cover the probable cause hearing but said that the press could not publish Upole's name.

Name stated in court: Upole stated her name during her testimony at the Jan. 29 hearing. Later that day, The Vindicator filed legal papers saying the judge's order against publishing the name was an unconstitutional restraint of the newspaper's rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

A hearing on that matter was Friday.

David Marburger, who represents The Vindicator, said the public should know Upole's name so people can determine if the girl's testimony is credible.

Upole, who was staying at Thomas' home, testified Jan. 29 that Leroy had been playful earlier on the day he was taken to the hospital. She said she did not see anyone abuse the baby that day.




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