By John W. Goodwin Jr.
The new trial date for Paul Brown, accused of killing a teen boy more than two years ago, is set for June.
Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court declared a mistrial Monday after determined that needed evidence in the case had not been supplied by Youngstown police.
Youngstown Prosecutor Jay Macejko said he was concerned about the “finger-pointing at the Youngstown Police Department, because it is ultimately the [county] prosecutor’s obligation to make sure all evidence has been turned over.”
County Prosecutor Paul Gains deferred questions to Robert Andrews, the assistant prosecutor trying the case.
Testimony was set to resume Monday in Judge Sweeney’s courtroom, when Brown’s lawyer, Anthony Meranto, asked the court for a mistrial.
Brown, 34, who faces a possibility of life imprisonment, is charged with killing 17-year-old Ashten Jackson. Testimony began last week in the trial.
It was late last week, however, when it was learned that both prosecutors in the case and Meranto had not been given a witness statement collected by police.
The discovery of the missing evidence caused a furor in the case that carried over to this week.
Andrews and Meranto also learned there was additional evidence not handed over by the police department.
The victim’s mother, April Jackson, testified that she went to Youngstown detectives and asked to speak to Brown concerning her son’s whereabouts. The request was granted, but there is no mention of the meeting in police notes or videos handed over to prosecutors or Meranto.
“They had this information and just sprang it on us today [Monday],” Meranto said. “I have no choice but to ask for a mistrial, and I think I am entitled to one. I don’t know what else to do judge. I am just as frustrated as you are.”
Judge Sweeney cited the lack of evidence turned over by the police department on both occasions as reasons for granting the Meranto’s mistrial request. Brown will return to court for a new trial June 18.
Andrews said the evidence issues seem to have been resolved, and the case should proceed smoothly in June. He said he could not speak more on the details because the case will continue.
The judge, as of late Monday afternoon, was exploring whether contempt-of-court charges will be brought against Detective Sgt. John Kelty. Kelty was the lead investigator in the case against Brown.
Police Capt. Mark Milstead did not speak on the most recent instance of missing evidence, but said the situation last week can be blamed on simple human error.
“I don’t know where the error occurred, but there was no intent to withhold evidence from anyone,” he said.
Andrews contends Brown, along with another man, picked up Jackson on the night of May 25, 2009, hoping the teen would help him commit a robbery.
Andrews said something went wrong in the arrangement, and Jackson ended up dead with four gunshot wounds to his body.
Andrews said the third man in the car drove Brown and Jackson to a Wardle Avenue address on the East Side where the robbery was to take place, but the driver did not want to be involved in the actual robbery, so he drove the pair to a South Side address, where Brown and Jackson got into a gold SUV with Brown driving.
Jackson returned to his home for a short period of time, Andrews said, and retrieved a gun. After he left the house, he was never seen alive again by family members.
Andrews said Jackson’s mother began looking for her son and called upon Brown for help. He said Brown led the woman on a wild chase of fictitious places he and the boy had been.
Police arrested Brown on a weapons violation shortly after Jackson went missing. The gun he was carrying is the same gun Jackson had taken from the family home the last night he was seen, Andrews said.