Youngstown death-penalty case headed to Ohio Supreme Court

YOUNGSTOWN — The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in the case of a Youngstown man sentenced to death for a 2013 murder.

A Mahoning County jury found Willie Wilks, 46, guilty on seven counts after the 2013 murder of Ororo Wilkins.

Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court upheld the jury’s recommendation to sentence Wilks to death.

Wilkins, 20, was sitting on a porch when witnesses testified that Wilks shot Wilkins.

The shooting followed an argument over a bank card between Wilks and members of Wilkins’ family.

Wilks’ attorneys have argued the evidence wasn’t sufficient for a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, citing the lack of DNA evidence and a murder weapon.

The county prosecutor’s office argued that jurors found eyewitnesses credible and eyewitness testimony is sufficient to secure a conviction.

Wilks’ attorneys also claim the prosecutor failed to present a grand jury with contradictory evidence from witnesses about the identity of the shooter.

The prosecutor’s office cited a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision and argued the grand jury’s role is accusatory and investigatory, and providing exculpatory evidence is not necessary.

To do so, would make the grand jury a preliminary trial body, the prosecutor argued.

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