Juror questionnaires from Mills trial unsealed

By Renee Brown, The Times-Reporter
Posted 4/23/2008

The 54 special juror questionnaires used in the Marsha Mills murder trial have been unsealed at the request of Mills' appellate attorneys.

Mills' defense team had sought to review the questionnaires as they pursue an appeal of the murder, felonious assault and child endangering convictions of Mills, 56, of Dover. Mills was convicted by a Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court jury in June as a result of the investigation into the May 2006 death of Noah A. Shoup, 2, of New Philadelphia.

Judges from the 5th District Court of Appeals denied the request earlier this month, stating it didn't seem to pertain to the pending appeal. Defense attorneys then asked Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos to unseal them, which she has. No specific reason for wanting to see the questionnaires, other than in the preparation of the appeal, has been given.

Any potential juror is asked to answer a general questionnaire before reporting for duty. In this case, however, a six-question special questionnaire was developed to determine whether the jurors had any personal knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the case, if they were related to either of the families and what, if anything, they had heard or read about the case. Many questionnaires have "none" or "nothing" written in response to all six questions.

The questionnaires of the seven men and five women who sat during the trial reveal little. Six jurors answered "none" or "nothing" to all questions. The remaining six stated they'd either read or heard media accounts of the case but nothing else.

One juror called Shoup's death "horrible, questionable," and another stated Mills "needs a fair trial" in which to tell her side of the story.

According to notes written on the other questionnaires, four potential jurors were excused for cause, likely meaning their responses to questions revealed either they had personal ties to the case or they already had formed opinions concerning Mills' guilt or innocence.

Three potential jurors indicated they had personal relationships with Shoup family members, while one had known Mills. Twenty stated they'd either read or heard media accounts of the case.

Mills' appellate attorneys are working on their final brief to be submitted to the appeals court, probably in early May. The case then will be scheduled for oral argument.

County prosecutors maintained the boy died a violent death at the hands of his baby sitter, while Mills' trial attorney said 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.