By Joe Gorman
A visiting judge Friday set trial dates for the two men charged almost four years ago with death-penalty offenses in the slaying of a real-estate agent on the East Side.
Judge Lee Sinclair set a trial date of Sept. 22 for Robert Brooks, 29, and Oct. 27 for Grant Cooper, 25. Both could face the death penalty if convicted of the Sept. 20, 2010, death of 67-year-old Vivian Martin.
Additionally Judge Sinclair set a July 17 date to hear motions on the case from both parties.
Police say Martin was lured to a home she was trying to sell in the 3100 block of Nelson Avenue by Brooks and Cooper, who then killed her and set the house on fire to cover up the crime.
Martin’s family has said they are upset it has taken the case so long to come to trial.
Judge Sinclair, a retired Stark County Common Pleas Court judge, was appointed by the state Supreme Court after Judge James Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court recused himself from the case June 9 because of his impending retirement Sept. 1.
Brooks and Cooper were arraigned in Martin’s death Oct. 13, 2010, but the case has yet to come to trial.
Judge Sinclair told both defendants in separate status hearings Friday that he is often appointed by the Supreme Court as a visiting judge in death-penalty cases and he teaches classes on death-penalty law to judges in Ohio and nationally.
Before the hearings in open court, Judge Sinclair met with attorneys for both defendants and prosecutors in chambers to introduce themselves and go over procedural issues for the cases.
In Cooper’s case, there is still a motion to suppress evidence that has yet to be heard, but Judge Sinclair said that will be heard July 17.
Judge Sinclair also said while going over the motions that have been ruled on that a couple of rulings made by Judge Evans could be reversed. He said he would give attorneys on both sides enough time to argue those motions again, though, before he makes a final ruling.