Beacon Journal

Murder case with 'compromised' evidence is dismissed
By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer

POSTED: 05:06 p.m. EDT, Apr 07, 2008

A judge dismissed aggravated murder charges this afternoon against a Mahoning County man over an assertion by Summit County prosecutors that Youngstown police ''compromised'' ballistic evidence in the 2002 slaying of 24-year-old Javan Rogers of Akron, court records show.

Summit County had jurisdiction in the case, prosecutors said, because Rogers was abducted from his Akron residence on North Portage Path and found shot to death in Youngstown on Aug. 27, 2002.

The Mahoning County defendant, Arian S. O'Connor, 30, was charged in the Rogers slaying last October after Youngstown police previously tied him to that shooting by switching a shell casing from an unrelated drive-by shooting in November 2002, Summit County court records show.

''A trial in this case would not be in the interest of justice for either the defendant or the victim's family,'' Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Gregory W. Peacock stated in the court-filed dismissal action.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove granted the prosecution request, calling the compromised evidence ''a situation that strikes at the very heart of our democracy and the justice system.''

Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Brad Gessner, head of the department's criminal division, said Peacock first learned of the compromised evidence while interviewing investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation several days before O'Connor's scheduled March 18 trial date.

Defense lawyer Jonathan T. Sinn said he will ask for an independent investigation of Youngstown police for instigating what he called ''a fraud upon the Summit County court, the Akron police and the people of Summit County.''

Sinn said he also will ask for repayment of ''tens of thousands of dollars'' of Summit County tax payer money spent in the investigation and prosecution of O'Connor ''for a crime he clearly did not commit.''

In filing for the dismissal, Peacock submitted a day-to-day timeline of the crucial events both before and after the shell casings were switched.

Gessner and Sinn both said Summit County prosecutors and Akron police had no advance knowledge of the compromised evidence until Peacock's pre-trial interview this month with the BCII investigator.

''All we know is that the evidence was compromised. We do not know how,'' Gessner said outside of court.

Under the departmental policy of head county prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, Peacock and all other assistant prosecutors — with the exception of Gessner and Walsh's chief counsel — are prohibited from commenting on a case outside of court.

Cosgrove said she would take Sinn's request for an outside investigation under advisement.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice