An Akron man accused of setting fires that killed nine of his neighbors has been refusing to meet with defense experts in his capital case.
Summit County Judge Christine Croce urged Stanley Ford on Thursday to assist with his defense.
“It only helps you to cooperate with all the people who want to save your life,” she told him during a status hearing.
Ford agreed to meet with the experts who are assisting attorneys Joe Gorman and Scott Rilley.
Prosecutors say Ford, 59, set three fires in his Fultz Street neighborhood, with two people killed in a 2016 fire and seven others — including five children — perishing in another in 2017. The third was a car fire with no injuries.
In each case, investigators say Ford had a beef with his neighbors.
Ford was indicted in July 2017 on 29 charges, including 22 counts of aggravated murder. He is facing the death penalty and is being held at the Summit County Jail without bond.
Ford’s trial was scheduled to begin in January but was delayed after an evaluation showed he may have brain damage. His attorneys say an MRI on Dec. 17 showed he has major vascular neurocognitive dementia, resulting in cognitive impairment, and has “irreversible brain damage that will progressively worsen with time.”
Because of these issues, Gorman and Rilley are seeking to have the death penalty removed from Ford’s case. They say the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited the execution of people who are intellectually disabled.
Prosecutors are having their own analysis of Ford’s condition done.
Croce will have a hearing on this issue June 20.
Ford, as he has in previous hearings, continued Thursday to proclaim his innocence.
“I’m being incarcerated for something I have no knowledge of,” he said at one point when responding to questions from Croce.
Croce explained to Ford, who has attempted to file motions in his case, that he’s not entitled to “hybrid representation,” meaning that he can’t both have attorneys and act as his own attorney. She said he has two of the best attorneys in Summit County representing him.
Croce said Ford has complained about his attorneys not visiting him in jail enough. She said she can assure him based on the hours they’ve been submitting her for the work they’re putting into his case that they’re doing their jobs — even if this doesn’t involve meeting with him.
The judge explained to Ford that his attorneys are working on both preparing for his trial and for the potential mitigation phase in case he is convicted in which they would present evidence about why he shouldn’t be put to death.
Croce asked Ford about the care he’s receiving in the jail. He said he’s getting the proper medical care. When she asked if the jail food is still bad, he answered, “Some of it.”
Jury selection in Ford’s trial is now scheduled to begin Aug. 6.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.