Man in jail since '02 on murder charge has bond request denied


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

In almost 13 years, only the numbers have changed for Christopher Anderson.

Accused of a June 2002 murder he has been tried for five times, Anderson, 47, has been in jail for 4,174 days and has a $500,000 bond.

He asked a judge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Thursday to modify that bond to a lower amount, but Judge Shirley J. Christian denied his request.

Judge Christian said that though the amount of time has changed since Anderson was arrested for the killing of 22-year-old Amber Zurcher, the circumstances and charges remain the same, which led her to reject a request for a lower bond by Anderson’s attorney, John Juhasz.

“The nature and circumstances of the charges certainly hasn’t changed,” Judge Christian said.

Juhasz said that maybe the last time Anderson’s bond was modified, by former Judge James Evans in 2009 to $500,000, it was a reasonable bond. But after almost 13 years in jail without being convicted of a crime and the possibility that an October trial date may be pushed back because of more legal wrangling, his request to lower the bond to $50,000 is reasonable.

“In light of the passage of time it’s [$500,000 bond] no longer reasonable,” Juhasz said.

Anderson is accused of the June 3, 2002, murder of Amber Zurcher, 22, in her Compass West apartment. Police say she was strangled after a party in her apartment. Police and prosecutors allege that after the party was over, Anderson went back to the apartment and strangled Zurcher.

In May 2003 and April 2010, mistrials were declared by Judge Evans, the first for an unsolicited comment by a witness that was heard by jurors and the second because a defense lawyer fell asleep in court. In November 2003, Anderson was convicted of murder by a jury and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

In December 2008 and August 2010, the case was tried, and both times, there was a hung jury. Prosecutors noted that in the 2008 case the jury voted 11-1 for conviction.

August 2010 was the last time the case was tried.

The case is set for trial Oct. 19, but that is almost certain to be pushed back because of more litigation in the case before the state Supreme Court.

The case was stalled because of an appeal in 2011 by Anderson’s lawyers that the murder charge should be dismissed because Anderson’s constitutional rights were being violated because of the multiple trials, but the 7th District Court of Appeals ruled against Anderson in May of this year. But before the appeals court could rule, other litigation in the case had to be settled before the state Supreme Court.

Juhasz said that two juries have found there was not enough to convict his client. He said in 2002 he was being investigated by Austintown police for more than two months before he was charged and he never left the jurisdiction.

Juhasz said if the bond is lowered, Anderson would move in with his mother.

Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said that if the juries did not convict Anderson in the previous cases, they did not acquit him, either.

Judge Christian said she did not consider how juries acted in the cases. She said the most important things to her were the circumstances and charges in the case, which have not changed.

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