Judge agrees to delay Ferrara case, notes rash

By joe gorman



A Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge agreed to continue an Oct. 21 trial date for a man accused of a triple homicide in Canfield Township in 1974.

Judge R. Scott Krichbaum on Wednesday agreed to the request by the attorney for James Ferrara, 64, who is charged in the December 1974 murders of Benjamin Marsh, 33; his wife, Marilyn, 32; and their 4-year-old daughter Heather.

A son, Christopher, 1, was found alive and unharmed by deputy sheriffs who discovered the crime.

Judge Krichbaum did overrule a motion to exhume other suspects for DNA testing but said he agreed with a motion to dismiss charges of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary against Ferrara because the statute of limitations has expired.

He did, however, give prosecutors until noon today to respond.

Judge Krichbaum also granted a motion that no testimony can be mentioned about a double homicide in 1983 that Ferrara was convicted of and is still serving time for, unless Ferrara testifies.

Ferrara’s attorney, Anthony Meranto said in motions filed Tuesday he needed more time because he received about 1,000 additional pages of information Friday, which did not give him enough time to prepare.

He had also filed a motion to dismiss based on those additional pages not coming until so late.

Assistant Prosecutor Rebecca Doherty took the blame for the late discovery, saying that as she went back over the case file again last week, she discovered several pages of documents she had already copied for Meranto were stapled together. She said when she realized her mistake, she made copies of those documents and gave them to Meranto.

Judge Krichbaum said in normal circumstances he would have upheld Meranto’s motion to dismiss because lawyers must follow the rules and deadlines of the court.

He said, however, that he felt hamstrung by rulings in the 7th District Court of Appeals that say similar circumstances require a continuance, not a dismissal.

Judge Krichbaum, who typically moves cases along at a fast clip, said he was not thrilled about granting a continuance but he felt he had not other choice.

“Your motion to continue has caused me to break out in a rash,” Judge Krichbaum said.

A new date has not been set, but Meranto said he hoped to finish the trial before the holiday season.

On the DNA motion, Meranto had argued in filings Tuesday that he needed the exhumations to help clear his client, but he also noted that his client’s DNA did not match a sample found at the crime scene. Judge Krichbaum said the fact Ferrara’s DNA was not found at the crime scene means the exhumations for DNA samples are not necessary.

Prosecutors indicted Ferrara in June after they say his fingerprints were found on a cigarette butt at the scene of the crime that was resubmitted to the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation for testing in 2009.

Meranto also filed a motion asking to exclude testimony about the fingerprints because the technician who collected the prints for the state BCI is dead and cannot be cross examined.

Judge Krichbaum gave Doherty until noon today to respond to that motion, also.

Doherty said there were other crime scene personnel at the time who are still available to testify.

Ferrara needed a cane to walk in court Wednesday.

He has been in the county jail since his arraignment.

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