The pool of potential jurors in the Summit County capital murder trial of 19-year-old Shawn Eric Ford Jr. has been set at 300.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed on the number Tuesday during a hearing before Common Pleas Judge Tom Parker. After names are drawn from the county’s eligible voter lists, a summons and preliminary juror questionnaire will be mailed to that number of potential jurors early next month.
Ford has been held under suicide watch in the county jail’s mental health unit since his arrest. He was indicted on multiple counts of aggravated murder and death penalty specifications in connection with the bludgeoning deaths of a prominent New Franklin couple, attorney Jeffrey Schobert, 56, and his wife, Margaret “Peg” Schobert, 59.
Jury selection in Ford’s trial begins April 2, one year to the day of the slayings, and is expected to last at least a week.
Parker scheduled two to three weeks for the evidentiary phase of the trial.
Two additional pretrial dates were scheduled, on March 4 and March 18, for both sides to review the initial responses on the returned jury forms.
In other developments, Ford’s lead attorney, Donald R. Hicks, told Parker that a motion will be filed to block Internet access to all records in Ford’s docket on the Summit County Clerk of Courts website. Assistant Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi said he had no objection to limiting public access to the case file in that way.
It is a move that has become increasingly customary in the county to assist both sides in selecting an impartial jury.
Ford attended the hearing in shackles and green-striped jail clothes, the designated color for inmates held in the mental health unit. He spoke only briefly, informing the judge that he has had difficulties scheduling jail visitations with family members.
Attorney Jonathan T. Sinn, Ford’s co-counsel, said Ford’s mother had visited the jail earlier Tuesday, for the first time since Dec. 3.
Ford told the judge he was satisfied with the work of his two lawyers and that he understood the steps being taken to ensure that an impartial jury is chosen.
Court records show the defense has requested the assistance of a psychiatrist, Dr. Joy Stankowski, in the event that Ford is convicted of the crime. Input from such an expert is “essential” for effective representation of Ford should the case move to the death penalty phase, the records stated.
Parker said he would approve the defense request and the appropriation of funding for the psychiatrist’s fee in an amount not to exceed $12,500.
A court order prohibits either side from commenting on case developments beyond official proceedings.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.