Judge hears motions in Toney case
By Joe Gorman
Judge Maureen Sweeney said Wednesday she will have a hearing before a prosecution witness testifies in the capital murder trial of Aubrey Toney.
He is accused of killing an elderly man and wounding his wife in a case of mistaken identity.
The judge will decide if the prosecution witness can testify about an earlier shooting.
Judge Sweeney said Wednesday during a pretrial hearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in the case of 32-year-old Toney that she will have the hearing after the trial begins, and before the witness is to testify.
She will decide if the testimony about the earlier shooting on Ferndale Avenue, a few weeks before the Sept. 25, 2010, death of 74-year-old Thomas Repchic and the wounding of his wife, Jacqueline, would be allowed to be used during the trial by prosecutors.
Toney faces a charge of aggravated murder with death-penalty specifications in the death of Thomas Repchic, who was killed as he was driving on Southern Boulevard near Eastern Philadelphia Avenue after picking up his wife from her job at St. Dominic Church. Toney also faces other charges for the wounding of Jacqueline Repchic.
Another man, Kevin Agee, 28, was convicted in May 2012 for his role in the crimes and is serving a prison term.
Defense attorneys John Juhasz and Paul Conn, representing Toney, asked Judge Sweeney to consider several motions Wednesday.
Toney’s trial is set for an orientation for jurors April 25 and for jury selection to begin April 28.
Police say it was a case of mistaken identity that led to the Repchics’ car being shot. They said Toney was looking for a man with whom he had been feuding and who drove a car similar to the Repchic vehicle. Police said Toney fired at their car because he thought it belonged to his rival.
Juhasz said rarely are prior crimes that a defendant is accused of committing allowed in front of a jury, and he said that should be the case with this shooting, even though prosecutors claim it points to a motive for Toney’s actions the day Repchic was killed and his wife wounded.
Juhasz argued before Judge Sweeney that prosecutors never explain how that fits into their theory of a motive for the shooting, and he asked for a hearing outside the view of the jury because allowing the testimony in trial could paint his client in a bad light.
“There certainly is that potential for prejudice here,” Juhasz said.
Juhasz also said this shooting has no connection to Repchic’s case because the victim in the shooting was driving a car that is different than the one the person Toney was alleged to be looking for.
Conn asked Judge Sweeney to exclude a rifle prosecutors want to display to jurors that was found by police during their investigation of the crime. Conn said the rifle was not used in the shooting, and showing it to a jury would also prejudice jurors against his client.
The rifle was used in Agee’s case as well. Judge Sweeney allowed it in that case and its use by prosecutors was also upheld by the 7th District Court of Appeals when Agee appealed his convictions.
Judge Sweeney said she would try to issue a ruling on the rifle as soon as possible.