Third time not the charm in ‘09 murder case

By Joe Gorman


The third time was not the charm Tuesday in the Paul Brown murder case.

With a jury waiting to hear opening statements in Mahoning County Common Pleas áourt in the murder trial of the 39-year-old Brown in the May 2009 shooting death of Ashten Jackson, 17, Brown and his attorney Mark Lavelle argued in court and then went to a private room.

When they came back before Judge Maureen Sweeney, Lavelle was off the case and a mistrial was declared.

Lavelle told the judge his relationship with Brown had “deteriorated seriously” since Monday, when jurors were selected, and he said he felt he could no longer represent Brown.

“He’s dissatisfied,” Lavelle said of Brown. Their relationship, Lavelle added, “is past the point of repair. I can not effectively represent him.”

Brown, when asked by Judge Sweeney, concurred.

Brown asked for a new lawyer, but Judge Sweeney said it will be hard to find a lawyer for Brown, who was on his second lawyer with Lavelle.

“You’re a very difficult client, you understand that?” Judge Sweeney asked him.

“My life is on the line, your Honor,” Brown said.

Brown on Monday turned down an offer to plead guilty to manslaughter and he could have possibly received only six months more to serve behind bars. He has been in custody in one form or another since he was arrested in connection with Jackson’s death in 2010. During that time he also has served a federal prison sentence on a firearms charge related to Jackson’s killing.

Brown is accused of killing Jackson sometime around May 24, 2009. Prosecutors say the two were participating in a robbery planned by a third man. Jackson’s body was found May 30, 2009, in a field on the East Side near where the robbery was to take place.

In 2012, a mistrial was declared because of a police report and a video that defense counsel did not have. In 2013, the murder charge was briefly dismissed when a defense lawyer claimed police tampered with Brown’s cellphone.

A judge reinstated the charge, however, because testimony at a hearing showed there was no tampering.

In June 2015, the case was declared a mistrial because of a video prosecutors wanted to play that the defense had never seen before the trial. Brown’s former attorney appealed to the 7th District Court of Appeals, saying the case should be thrown out because Brown’s double-jeopardy rights were being violated, but the court ruled against Brown.

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