Mills' attorneys file post-conviction petition seeking new trial

By Renee Brown, The Times-Reporter
Posted 4/28/2008

A second attempt to free Marsha Mills from prison has been made by her attorneys in the form of a petition for post-conviction relief.

The petition was filed Monday in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court at New Philadelphia along with a request for an evidentiary hearing before trial Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos. No hearing has been set. The petition asks Thomakos to vacate the findings of guilt on charges of murder, felonious assault and child endangering made by a jury last summer and the life prison sentence she imposed and grant Mills a new trial.

Mills, 56, of Dover was convicted in June as a result of the investigation into the May 2006 death of Noah A. Shoup, 2, of New Philadelphia that occurred as Mills baby-sat him.

A direct appeal of the conviction and life prison sentence is pending before the 5th District Court of Appeals at Canton.

According to Mills' defense team ­ Columbus attorneys Paula Brown, William Bluth and Richard Parsons ­ the convictions should be voided because several of Mills' constitutional rights were violated. The defense team also claims the representation of Mills by Public Defender Gerald A. Latanich and Assistant Public Defender Amanda Miller "was unconstitutionally deficient and worked to the substantial prejudice of Ms. Mills."

The post-conviction petition includes information and assertions that could not have been made in the direct appeal, according to the filing.

Listed in the 46-page filing are 13 errors the defense team has assigned to Latanich and Miller and one error assigned to Thomakos. According to the petition, Latanich failed to object to certain photographs, failed to object to certain pieces of testimony, failed to ask for a change of venue, failed to properly question the defense expert and cross-examine prosecution witnesses and failed to remove one of the jurors who ultimately voted for guilt.

The defense team also claims Latanich and Miller were unprepared and ineffective in presenting a defense to the charges and failed to impeach a state's witness with incorrect testimony the witness had given at another hearing.

County prosecutors maintain the boy died a violent death, while the defense claims the boy died after falling down a short flight of outside steps onto concrete. Mills is serving a life sentence with parole eligibility after 15 years are served.