Testimony continues in YSU frat house murder trial

By Peter H. Milliken



Jurors in the murder trial of Jamelle Jackson will return at 9 a.m. today to the Summit County Courthouse to hear more testimony in the case.

Jackson, 20, of West Boston Avenue is charged with murder in the shooting that killed Jamail Johnson, a 25-year-old Youngstown State University senior.

He also is charged with 11 counts of felonious assault in the wounding of 11 others by gunfire at an Indiana Avenue house party near YSU on Feb. 6, 2011.

Judge John M. Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court sent the jurors home late Tuesday morning after telling them the lawyers were still trying “to locate a witness or two.”

With the agreement of the prosecution and the defense, the judge said he was giving the lawyers the remainder of Tuesday to locate the witness or witnesses. Judge Durkin had said earlier that a potential prosecution witness was being sought.

The judge said he and the prosecuting and defense lawyers needed to discuss later Tuesday the exhibits that have been offered into evidence and proposed instructions the judge will give the jury before it starts deliberating Jackson’s fate.

The prosecution has offered 184 exhibits, and the defense has offered three. The exhibits consist of documents, photos and items of physical evidence.

Because a potential prosecution witness still was being sought, the judge explained to the jury that the prosecution and defense had agreed to let defense witnesses testify before the prosecution rests its case.

The only witnesses jurors heard from Tuesday were two defense witnesses, neither of them identifying by name any shooter or shooters.

Dylan Thomas, a YSU pre-med student, testified he saw two people draw guns after arguing with Johnson outside the party. “They pulled the guns out of their waistbands and started backing up and stepping back and shooting,” Thomas said.

The shooters fired a combined total of at least 15 shots before running from the scene, said Thomas, who lived in an adjacent fraternity house when the shooting occurred.

Another witness, Adam Madej of Boardman, who was a YSU student when the shooting occurred, said he saw two men backing up as the shots were fired, but he saw only one gun.

The trial has been moved out of Youngstown due to pretrial publicity. The jury consists of nine women and three men who live in Summit County.

The prosecution alleges that Jackson and Columbus Jones were the shooters. Jones, 24, of Cambridge Avenue, was tried and convicted by a jury in Youngstown of murder and 11 counts of felonious assault and sentenced in August to 92 years in prison.

Johnson was shot as he tried to usher party-goers to safety inside the house, according to Rebecca Doherty, chief of the criminal division of the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office.

Johnson was shot four times, once in the head, once in the left buttock and twice in the left leg. The Mahoning County coroner ruled his death a homicide.

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