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City murder case ruling goes to Ohio high court

YOUNGSTOWN — The attorneys for a Campbell man who nearly went on trial on a murder charge last year are appealing a decision by Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge John Durkin to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Durkin ruled that he had sufficient reason to postpone and reschedule the trial of Myckle Hughes, 24, after an outburst outside of the courthouse by a member of the murder victim’s family that was heard by jurors, who had already been seated in the trial.

Hughes was about to go on trial last September when Durkin postponed the trial for several days, apparently because of the unavailability of a witness. A family member of the victim reacted to the news outside of the courthouse by making loud statements that were heard by some of the jurors.

But Hughes’ attorneys argued that the judge needed to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the jury had been sworn in and to try Hughes with a new jury after that would be a violation of the double-jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution. When the judge refused to dismiss the charges, Hughes’ counsel appealed to the 7th District Court of Appeals, which upheld the judge’s ruling.

On Monday, Hughes and his attorneys filed the appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court, which has discretion to hear the appeal or not. The standard the Ohio Supreme Court must follow is whether the case raises issues of “great general or public interest and involves a substantial constitutional question.”

A memorandum filed by Hughes’ attorney Douglas Taylor argues that the judge abused his discretion in allowing the trial to be scheduled again because case law has established that Durkin needed to find a “manifest necessity to declare a mistrial.”

In this case, a jury of 12 “jurors capable of proceeding with trial and judging the evidence fairly and impartially” was impaneled. And the questioning of jurors about what they heard and thought about the outburst did not indicate a need to cancel the trial, the filing states.

The 7th District Court of Appeals supported Durkin’s ruling, saying he was in the best position to judge whether some of the jurors had to be dismissed from the case because of the affect it appeared to have on some of the jurors.

The appeals panel said only the judge could evaluate the jurors’ “credibility by observing their gestures, voice inflections and demeanor” while being asked by the attorneys and judge how they felt about what they heard during the outburst.

Hughes faces charges of murder, aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and is accused of killing Sean Bell, 18, Aug. 21, 2018, on Oak Street Extension. Bell had recently graduated from Chaney High School.

Police initially responded to the scene of a car accident but found Bell’s body with gunshot wounds inside the vehicle.

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