Murder trial postponed in search of new evidence
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
Paul Brown’s murder trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court has had several setbacks and is now postponed again — this time in search of evidence a defense attorney says will prove his client’s innocence.
Brown was set for trial this week in the May 2009 murder of 17-year-old Ashten Jackson. The teen’s body was found on the East Side by a search party organized by his mother, April Jackson, after he had been missing for several days.
April Jackson said in 2010 that her son left home with her former boyfriend, Paul Brown, and was not heard from again.
Jury selection for the trial began Monday in the courtroom of Judge Maureen Sweeney, but the judge postponed the trial Friday.
Attorney Anthony Meranto, representing Brown, said his client has maintained his innocence since the time of his arrest and told police another man is responsible. He said Brown told police the other man left a message on his cellphone admitting to the murder.
That voice message purportedly left on Brown’s phone is the center of this week’s controversy. Judge Sweeney has given the phone’s service provider seven days to provide the necessary information to retrieve the message.
Meranto said the information contained in the message would prove Brown’s innocence and leave prosecutors with little choice other than to dismiss the charges.
“This is huge. If we find this information the state is going to dismiss the charges, and it proves what Paul has been saying since the day they arrested him,” he said.
Meranto admits his client was seen with the deceased teen and the other man shortly before he went missing, but his client said he told the teen to stay clear of the other man and then left. Meranto said Jackson went with the other man to commit a robbery and the other man later said the robbery “went bad” leading to the teen’s death.
The judge declared a mistrial in the case in 2012 because she said Youngstown police hadn’t supplied evidence to the prosecution and defense.