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WARREN Inmate wants to change his plea



Published: Wed, September 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Prosecutors are asking the judge to deny the defendant's request.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A convicted killer is again asking a judge to allow him to withdraw his 1991 guilty plea.

John Woodrow Smith, 30, formerly of Cortland, has filed a motion in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court telling Judge W. Wyatt McKay that he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because he had ineffective counsel.

Judge McKay has not decided if he will set a hearing on the matter.

Smith, who was convicted of fatally beating elementary Principal Larry Graber in 1991, had asked to withdraw his guilty plea in 1998.

At that time, Smith stated that he was on prescription drugs for depression and did not make an intelligent plea. The judge, however, declined to have a hearing on the matter.

Prosecutors have written a brief in response to Smith's motion, asking the judge to deny the request.

The five-page brief, written by Diane Barber, an assistant county prosecutor, states that Smith's argument has no merit.

"Defendant has been incarcerated for some 11 years and has only now decided that he was a victim of manifest injustice," Barber writes.

"In arriving at his conclusion, defendant fails to offer any proof that such an injustice occurred. In order to accept defendant's claims, this court would have to pile inference upon inference without any conclusive evidence that defendant's allegations are accurate."

Sentence

Judge McKay sentenced Smith to 15 years to life in prison Aug. 26, 1991. According to the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation Web site, Smith is scheduled to have his next parole hearing in August 2010.

Police said Smith killed Graber, 54, a principal at Howland Springs Primary School, in June 1991.

Graber's body was found in a wooded area June 14, 1992, near Mosquito Lake. Police said Smith beat Graber with branches, his fists and his feet.

Smith told police that he beat Graber, whom he met at a gay bar in the city, after the principal made a sexual advance toward him in a wooded area near the lake.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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