Prosecutors are granted filing extension

By Renee Brown, The Times-Reporter
Posted 3/22/2008

Tuscarawas County prosecutors in the Marsha J. Mills murder case have been given more time to file their response to the various trial errors cited by Mills' attorneys.

The 5th District Court of Appeals at Canton granted a request for a 14-day extension, moving the filing deadline from March 28 to April 11. Assistant ProsecutorMichaelErnest asked for more time to review the 1,500-page trial transcript and research the 30 pages of legal arguments submitted by Mills' attorneys.

Mills'attorneys,Paula Brown,WilliamBluthand Richard Parsons of Columbus, did not oppose the extension. Ernest noted this was his second request for more time.

Defense attorneys will have the opportunity to respond to Ernest's filing before the higher court begins its review of the case. A three-judge panel likely will hear oral arguments in the case sometime this summer.

Four alleged violations of Mills' constitutional rights are included in the seven errors set forth by Mills' defense team based on the 12-day jury trial in May and June. Had the errors not been made, the outcome of the trial would have been different, defense attorneys argued.

After five hours of deliberations on June 15, jurors found Mills guilty of two counts of murder, one count of felonious assault and one count of child endangering as a result of the May 2006 death of 2-year-old NoahA.ShoupofNew Philadelphia.Prosecutors maintained the boy died a violent death at the hands of his babysitter,whilePublic Defender Gerald Latanich tried to prove the boy fell down a short flight of outside steps and landed on concrete.

On June 22, the 56-year-old Dover grandmother was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 15 years are served. The appellate court denied a request to allow Mills to remain free pending appeal.

Mills'attorneysfileda request with the appellate court Monday to unseal the special juror questionnaires utilized during the trial. According to Brown's request, the questionnaires were ordered sealed by Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos on June 5 but there is no record stating the reasons why.

"Due process notions of fundamental fairness also require their unsealing," Brown stated. "If Ms. Mills is not permitted to view the content of these questionnaires, she will be unable to conduct a complete review and will be deprived of potentially critical information."

As of Friday, no response to the request was filed by Ernest.