Youngstown death penalty case before Supreme Court
By Justin Wier
The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today 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, including aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and felonious assault, in the 2013 killing 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 Park Avenue porch when witnesses testified that Wilks shot Wilkins and her brother, who was holding Wilkins’ child, with an AK-47 rifle.
Wilks also shot at Wilkins’ brother, Willie Wilkins, and missed, according to eyewitness testimony.
The shooting followed an argument over a bank card between Wilks and Willie Wilkins.
The murder qualified as a death-penalty case because Wilks killed Wilkins while trying to kill two or more people.
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 Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office argued that jurors found the eyewitnesses credible, and eyewitness testimony is sufficient to secure a conviction.
Another argument on Wilks’ behalf claims 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 that stated that prosecutors are not required to disclose “substantial exculpatory evidence” to grand juries, adding the grand jury’s role is accusatory and investigatory.
To present exculpatory evidence would make the grand jury a preliminary trial body, the prosecutor argued.