Mills verdict stands - Court denies defense request to vacate jury’s decision

By Renee Brown, The Times-Reporter
Posted 7/22/2008

Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Judge Elizabeth Lehigh Thomakos has denied a request to vacate the jury’s guilty findings in the Marsha Mills murder case and the subsequent imposition of a life sentence.

In her decision dated Friday, Thomakos granted a request by Assistant Prosecutor Michael Ernest to dismiss Mills’ petition for post-conviction relief filed in late April. Thomakos agreed with Ernest that each of the 15 claims are more properly made in an appeal and that no evidence was presented by Mills’ attorneys that would justify throwing out the jury’s verdict.

“We have not received a copy of Judge Thomakos’ entry denying Marsha Mills’ petition to vacate or set aside judgment and sentence, and therefore do not know the basis of the ruling,” said attorney Paula Brown of Columbus. “We raised 15 claims for relief on behalf of Marsha Mills and attached two affidavits in support of those claims. We also requested an evidentiary hearing.

“We are shocked and dismayed that the court denied our request for a hearing, and we plan to appeal the court’s decision.”

Mills’ legal team cited 15 reasons why Mills should be granted a new trial – 14 of those because of alleged errors made by trial counsel and one because of an alleged error on Thomakos’ part. Everything from erroneous juror selection to incomplete questioning of witnesses is listed as having violated Mills’ rights because of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Mills’ direct appeal – pending before the 5th District Court of Appeals – contains many of the same allegations. The matter was argued last month, but no decision has been made.

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 Noah A. Shoup, 2, of New Philadelphia that occurred as Mills baby-sat him.

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