Retirement of top Trumbull public defender likely to delay start of Liberty capital murder trial
By Ed Runyan
The recent retirement of Atty. Matt Pentz, director of the Trumbull County Office of the Ohio Public Defender, will apparently cause a capital murder trial to be delayed.
Atty. Gregory Meyers, senior assistant Ohio public defender; and Atty. David Rouzzo, assistant state public defender in the Trumbull County office; on Friday asked Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court to delay the start of the murder trial of Sean Clemens, currently set for Oct. 1.
The judge has not ruled on the request.
Clemens, 33, of Church Hill-Hubbard Road in Liberty Township, is charged with the April 24, 2017, aggravated murder and robbery of his neighbor, Jane Larue Brown, 84. If convicted of certain charges and specifications of aggravating circumstances, Clemens could get the death penalty.
The Ohio Public Defender’s Office provides legal representation to defendants who cannot afford to hire their own attorney in misdemeanor and felony criminal cases in Trumbull County.
Pentz is the only attorney in the Trumbull County office certified to be lead attorney in a potential death-penalty case.
Myers and Rouzzo also asked Judge McKay on Friday to allow Meyers to serve as lead counsel in Pentz’s place. Rouzzo is able to continue serve as “second chair” in the case.
A reason for asking for the trial date to be pushed back is because Meyers is already defending a Greene County man in a capital murder case that likely will not be finished until after Oct. 1, a filing says.
Tim Young, Ohio public defender, said his office is seeking applicants to replace Pentz, and Rouzzo is serving as interim office director.
Atty. John Cornely, head of the trial division of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, is handling many of Pentz’s other duties, Young said.
One of those duties is serving as co-counsel with Rouzzo for Claudia Hoerig, charged with aggravated murder in the 2007 shooting death of her husband, Maj. Karl Hoerig, in their Newton Falls home.
Her case does not involve the possibility of her receiving the death penalty.
Rouzzo and Cornely on Friday asked Judge Andrew Logan for permission for Cornely to replace Pentz in the Hoerig case, but Judge Logan last week noted that defense counsel’s difficulty in finding an expert witness to testify in her trial could delay its start.