AUSTINTOWN Defense declines to call witnesses



Defense lawyers had witnesses at the courthouse but didn't call them.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Jurors in Christopher Anderson's murder trial will be asked to reach a verdict on his guilt or innocence after hearing only one side of the story.
Anderson's lawyers, Ronald Yarwood and Edward J. Hartwig, declined to call any witnesses on Anderson's behalf Monday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Jurors were to hear closing arguments from lawyers today, after which they were to receive instructions of law from Judge James C. Evans and begin deliberating.
Anderson, 36, of Austintown, has been on trial for the June 2002 murder of 22-year-old Amber Zurcher, who was found strangled to death in her Compass West apartment.
Assistant prosecutors Timothy Franken and Kelly Johns presented 10 witnesses during their part of the trial, which began last week and finished late Monday morning.
Jurors expected to hear defense witnesses Monday afternoon, but Yarwood and Hartwig chose to not present a case.
Yarwood declined to say why they made that decision.
Under Ohio law, the burden of proof in criminal cases is on the state, so the defense is not required to put on a case.
Witnesses
The defense had subpoenaed witnesses to testify on Anderson's behalf, some of whom were at the courthouse Monday afternoon before being sent home.
In his opening statement to jurors, Hartwig said Anderson's defense would be built around testimony of alibi witnesses who would say that Anderson was home at the time Zurcher was killed, so he could not have done it.
Prosecutors said Anderson was among a group of people who attended a party at Zurcher's apartment the night she was killed. They said that after everyone left, Anderson returned and strangled Zurcher, who was found the next day by her mother.
Anderson's first trial in May ended in a mistrial after a witness blurted out information that Judge Evans had previously ruled inadmissible.
bjackson@vindy.com

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