Jurors report for orientation in Seman case


Process expected to continue Monday

By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Jurors reported Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for orientation in the capital murder case of Robert Seman.

His attorneys, meanwhile, filed a notice that Seman claims he was at his home when the fire that killed three people was set.

Seman, 47, of Green, could face the death penalty if convicted of the murders of Corinne Gump, 10, and her grandparents, William and Judith Schmidt, during an arson March 30, 2015, in their Powers Way home.

That was the same day Seman was to go on trial for raping the girl. He was free on bond at the time.

More than 150 jurors reported to the courtroom of Judge Maureen Sweeney, who is trying the case. They received instructions on what they can expect and what they can and cannot do during the jury selection process, which is expected to continue Monday.

Judge Sweeney also ruled against several defense motions late Thursday, including motions to continue the trial and to exclude specific evidence from the rape case in the murder trial.

Defense attorneys did not want specific acts from the rape case mentioned because they are afraid that will turn jurors against their client. But prosecutors argued that jurors need to know the evidence because one of the reasons Seman is eligible for the death penalty is that he killed the victim or witness to a crime, and the girl was both.

Defense attorneys also submitted the notice Friday that Seman is claiming as an alibi that he was at his West Calla Road home in Green at the time of the fire. Seman was on electronically monitored house arrest at the time of the fire.

On Wednesday, defense attorneys said in a motion hearing that there is no evidence that he ever strayed from the house arrest. Prosecutors wanted to call a rebuttal witness who could testify that she routinely slipped off the same kind of bracelet Seman had. Defense attorneys objected to that witness as well, but Judge Sweeney overruled that motion also.

Jury selection is expected to take several weeks while the trial itself is expected to take two weeks.

Seman is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder because they charged he killed the witness to a crime; killed a person younger than 13; killed two or more people; killed someone in the commission of another felony, which in this case means aggravated arson or aggravated burglary. If jurors find Seman is eligible for the death penalty a second phase of the trial, or mitigation phase, will take place at which defense attorneys will present evidence to jurors showing them why they must spare Seman’s life.

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