Mills defense seeks reconsideration of ruling

By Katie Alberti, The Times-Reporter
Posted 8/2/2008

Attorneys for Marsha Mills have underscored a potential issue involving a juror, adding to their list of reasons why Mills should be released from prison and granted a new trial.A motion for reconsideration was filed Friday in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court at New Philadelphia. It asks that Common Pleas Court Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos reconsider her recent denial of the defense’s request to vacate the jury’s guilty finding and the imposition of a life sentence.According to the newest filing, during voir dire – the process at which prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being chosen for a jury – a juror did not answer a question on his questionnaire that asked if he was related, or a close friend of, any law enforcement officer.The document filed by attorney Paula Brown of Kravitz, Brown and Dortch of Columbus states that the juror is related to a daytime dispatcher with the New Philadelphia Police Department.“As the Court will remember, Noah Shoup’s accident occurred during the day,” the document stated. “The reason that this question is included on the juror questionnaire form is that it is a basic voir dire question dealing with individual bias. To not address it, especially given the fact that (the juror) was the only seated juror not to answer this question, is ineffectiveness on the part of counsel.”When contacted Friday by The Times-Reporter, New Philadelphia Police Chief Jeff Urban said dispatchers are not law enforcement officers. Instead, they are considered civilian employees who “really would have no knowledge or access to any of the investigation.”On July 18, Thomakos granted a request by Assistant Prosecutor Michael Ernest to dismiss Mills’ petition for post-conviction relief.Mills, 57, of Dover was convicted and sentenced in June 2007 on two counts of murder and one count each of child endangering and felonious assault as a result of the investigation into the May 2006 death of 2-year-old Shoup that occurred as Mills baby-sat him.Prosecutors maintain the New Philadelphia boy died a violent death, while the defense claims he died after falling down a short flight of outside steps onto concrete. Mills is serving a life sentence in prison with parole eligibility after 15 years are served.