Conference held in slain real estate agent case

By Joe Gorman


A pretrial conference took place for one of two men accused of the 2010 slaying of a real-estate agent on the East Side.

Attorneys in the case against Robert Brooks, 29, met with Visiting Judge Lee Sinclair for about two hours Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court going over jury questionnaires and discussing other issues.

Brooks could face the death penalty if convicted of the death of Vivian Martin, 67, who was killed Sept. 20, 2010. Her body was found in a burning home she was showing in the 3100 block of Nelson Avenue.

Police say Martin, the owner of Essence Realty, was lured to a home she was showing, robbed and strangled. The home was then set on fire to cover up the crime.

A co-defendant, Grant Cooper, 25, pleaded guilty July 31 to charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated robbery, aggravated arson and kidnapping. Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of 29 years. His sentencing is set for Oct. 2.

Part of the plea agreement Cooper made is that he must testify truthfully against Brooks.

Jury selection is set to begin in Brooks’ trial Sept. 22.

Among the items that jurors will be asked on the questionnaires are their views on the death penalty and how much of the case they have heard about in an attempt to gauge the amount of pretrial publicity.

Judge Sinclair, a retired Stark County Common Pleas Court judge, was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court in June after Mahoning County Judge James C. Evans recused himself from the case because of his impending retirement.

Brooks and Cooper were arraigned on charges in Martin’s death Oct. 13, 2010. A tentative pretrial conference was set for Aug. 27 in case there are any pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Judge Sinclair said, however, that may be just a telephone conference if defense lawyers and prosecutors agree there is no pressing motion that needs to be heard in open court.

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