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Prosecutor’s office gets criticism from relatives of victim

Published: Wed, October 12, 2011 @ 12:08 a.m.

Family of slain YSU student frustrated over lack of notification about hearings

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



Family members of the Youngstown State University student who was shot and killed at an off-campus party earlier this year say they are determined to attend every court hearing concerning the case.

But they expressed frustration at the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office for not keeping them informed.

It has been eight months since Jamail Johnson, 25, was killed at that party in February. Five men — Jamelle Jackson, 18, Brandon Carter, 22, Mark Jones, 20, his brother, Columbus Jones Jr., 22, and Demetrius Wright, 19 — face various charges in the shooting.

A trial date has been set for January, but Shirlene and Sidney Hill, mother and stepfather of Johnson, say the prosecutor’s office has not informed them of pretrial dates and other matters in the case.

“I am tired of them not telling us when these things are happening,” Shirlene Hill said. “I don’t want this case to fall through the cracks.”

She said she was in the courthouse Thursday inquiring about issues concerning the case and was not told about a pretrial appearance by the five defendants that was scheduled for the next day.

“The pretrial was Friday and we were not even notified, and this is not the first time,” she said. “We found out about the pretrial through a reporter.”

Shirlene Hill said it also is insulting that the defendants’ families were somehow told of the hearing and able to be in the courtroom “blowing kisses” to their loved ones.

Linda Cappelli of the county’s victim’s witness program said families of victims are notified about major court events such as trials, bond hearings, judicial releases, appeals, and convictions or acquittals, but pretrials are not always on the notification list.

Cappelli said staffing limitations do not always allow for notification of pretrials.

Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said he understands the family would like to attend all court hearings concerning the matter, and his office will work to make that possible.

“We will make every effort to make sure they are notified in the future,” Gains said. “The family wants to be at every pretrial, so we are going to do what we can to make sure that happens.”

Sidney Hill said several family members are concerned that the prosecutor’s office might mishandle the high-profile case and allow some of the defendants to elude conviction on technicalities.

Gains’ office has seen miscues in recent weeks. On Sept. 20, a mistake in the prosecutor’s office led to charges’ being dropped against two men slated to go on trial in the murder of 38-year-old Kevin Hart of Youngstown.

On Oct. 5, a jury acquitted a 19-year-old man of all charges in the Aug. 6, 2010, shooting death of Anthony Harrison, 20, of Campbell. The jury forewoman said the state’s DNA evidence was insufficient, and the prosecution “did have a lot of holes in their story.”

But Gains said he has confidence in the strength of his case in the Johnson shooting.

“I feel this case is strong. The grand jury felt the case should proceed, and we are going to do our best to see that justice is done,” he said.


1Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


When is Jamar Houser going to be tried for the killing of Angeline Fimognari at St. Dominics Church ? This January will have been two years since she was executed by a gunshot to the head at pint blank range .

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2Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

"But Gains said he has confidence in the strength of his case in the Johnson shooting."

He should have confidence in all the cases he's assigned! He needs to get off his a@# and actually do his job!

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3mishmash(304 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


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4AtownAugie(787 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

We need to cut Paulie some slack. He has *much* more pressing issues than worry about such trivial matters as a victim's family. Heck, he's even too busy to give a defense attorney stuff he had in his files thus causing a judge to toss out inconsequential ole run-of-the-mill murder charges against two fellas a few weeks ago. I, for one, am glad Paulie has his priorities straight, and finds the time during his long days to handle such spur-of-the-moment emergencies as writing a letter for his buddy Dave Betras to give to the secretary of state. Thanks, Paulie, for keeping your eye on thd ball!

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5MARGEOMATIC(128 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

how nice - give the jerks that shot j.j. plenty of time to change the story- lawyer up and see nothing no nothing - see what i saying ! please.

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6wondering2(32 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


Everyone looks normal
some people dress formal
all here, ready to lie
pleading not guilty
wearing a suit and a tie..

While attorneys are winners
defendants are all sinners
people with flaws
again breaking the laws

We play deal or better deal
and then comes the appeal
criminals have rights
victims, sleepless nights

Broken hearts, broken dreams
a world full of schemes
at the end we will find
that justice is blind.

The court is in session.......

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7MARGEOMATIC(128 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

COME ON what is the deal with this? I hope this will not take that much longer -As the publics outrage wanes - and once again a mutant strain of stupid jury is selected- I fear these losers will get off scot free because it seems to be a trend to aquit in Youngstown. You can bet that the defense is going to pick out the worst skronking brand of reject jury ever known . Someone better let these people know about each and every hearing- because maintaining public awareness - keeping the heat on will help the pros win the case.

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8woolyd(579 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Again STAN we know about her case and its needs to be brought to trial. All of these cases need to be brought to trial and justice needs to be served.

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9Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

woolyd :

"Again STAN we know about her case"

Only the living can speak and justice for Angeline Fimognari has been taking the longest time .

January 23, 2010


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10taxpayer1001(274 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

You are so right Stan. We see what happens when people don't keep these cases in the light of day....DISMISS OR AQUITTAL. Keep on reminding people daily about these cases!

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11livevalley(23 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

All I can say is this, if we as people of the valley vote this man in again we are all stupid fools. He is an idiot and thats the nicest thing I can say. Having PERSONAL experience with him and that office within the last 6 months I am amazed. His office and his prosicutors screwed up a matter with me, even having the judge sentence a kid that did not know what was happening, he was only 18 and trusted the system, for a crime he was not EVEN CHARGED WITH. They messed up the whole thing them Mr. Gains said it was the police departments fault. No Mr. Gains it was YOUR DEPARTMENTS fault and then when he wrote me a letter about it he again made 2 mistakes with the people involved and what they did, even when he claimed he had the police reports. In his office I bitched that I called days ago and he never called me back and I get a female prosicutor say to me your lucky it wasn't weeks, we ARE UNDER STAFFED. Bull crap, do the work. Theres more to this matter and I wish I could put it all down but I can't just yet. Bottom line is this man is a idiot, he is stealing this valleys money by being there and when he gets defeated I would love to see him defend a real case for someone and get paid. Paul go where you are best and have a few on us, thats your true passion.

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12livevalley(23 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

I must add this in humor. Reading the Vindy editorial on Paul and passing the blame Paul we understand. Its the commisionors fault these things happen, its the cops fault murders get off, its having no office staff evidence does not get passed on to the defense, its the judges fault they did not understand our case, no wait its the cleaning staffs fault, they shuffled papers. Paul the truth is it's your fault your not coherant enough in the mornings and afternoons before Micheal Alberini's to see you are not doing the job. Remember were the BUCK STOPS and do the job all 4 years not just the last month or two! As for that staff you guys should be assamed to work there and practice law the way you guys and lady's are.

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13ghostofjohnyoung(163 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Not a week goes by without PAUL GAINS office dropping the ball on another major crimes case.

Find it funny that Gains can letter write for Betras but is so overwhelmed.

The feds really need to investigate the justice system in Mahoning County. They should start by opening the files on all these botched cases and cases where the County has refused to prosecute for MURDERS for very long periods of time.

Open records systems needs implemented.

Make the Court dockets human friendly and as-updated as what the court staff is using - make them use the same system.

Allow anyone to subscribe to email or SMS notifications on any case.

Really, let's do something about things for a change.

VOTE PAUL GAINS OUT! (better update your resume Paul, you are done pal).

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14seminole(476 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Gain's is a jerk-off and his team of "qualified prosecutors" (remember that claim when he robbed the budget for all their needed raises?) are a posse of clowns. They plea deal cases every week, don't do their job and let important evidence be dismissed because the prosecutor had his/her head up their a--, they can't get their cases in-line and they get their a--es kicked. With these bufoons in play they might as well just let the criminals roll because they all end up back on the street weeks or months later to exact more crimes. Gain's doesn't give a damn about justice, he cares about his image, even as tained as it is. As long as the corruption and criminal element runs the valley then incompetent officers of the court have a place so they can further facilitate the corruption and failures of the judicial system. Arm yourselves, take the trash out yourselves because the police and prosecutors office sure as hell can't do it...

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15Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

The criminals of Youngstown roam the streets with impunity . WHY ? They have no fear ! When the sun goes down they rule the streets . During daylight hours they are resting up for the night shift with your tax dollars supporting them .

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