Akron Beacon Journal

January 19, 2005

Convicted killer denied new trial

Beacon Journal staff writer

A judge on Tuesday criticized prosecutors but refused a request for a fifth trial by convicted murderer Michael Roper.

Roper, convicted after four trials in the 2000 robbery and shooting death of an Akron store owner, had contended that prosecutors withheld police reports from his defense lawyers which identify three other suspects.

Summit County prosecutors at a hearing last month said the reports were in the case file that was available to Roper's attorney before each of the four trials.

Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter on Tuesday denied Roper's bid for a new trial, ruling that the police reports in question are ``immaterial'' and do ``not raise a significant question'' in relation to other evidence used to convict Roper.

However, the judge did find that prosecutors failed to prove they complied with pretrial discovery, the process in which defense attorneys and prosecutors share evidence and information.

Roper's trial attorneys, Kerry O'Brien and Timothy Ivey, signed affidavits last year saying they never saw the police reports and that they would have used them at trial, had they known.

Prosecutors countered that the reports were in the file they shared with the defense in discovery.

Hunter ruled the discovery method used by prosecutors, in which defense attorneys are given time to look at documents contained in the file, fails to ``prove compliance with the formal request for discovery'' because there is no index of the information contained nor a log of when the items were placed in the file.

Roper's attorney Jana DeLoach could not be reached for comment.

Roper, 28, is serving a life sentence without parole for the shooting death of Taleb ``Tom'' Husein, owner of a Lake Shore Boulevard convenience store in June 2000. Two eyewitnesses identified Roper as the gunman who shot the 49-year-old businessman.

Roper's first three trials ended without jurors agreeing on a verdict. At a fourth trial, prosecutors used a jail informant who said Roper confessed to the crime. A Husein relative also emerged alleging Roper was in the store with a black gun the day before the shooting.

Using information from the informant, police recovered a gun from Summit Lake. The gun was never conclusively linked to the shooting.

Roper has always denied being the gunman and claimed he was the victim of misidentification. DeLoach had argued that had Roper's trial attorneys known about the other suspects, jurors may have acquitted the Akron man.

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