Jurors take oath in Fuller case

ST. CLAIRSVILLE The jurors have taken their oath in the trial of one of two men accused in the brutal killing of an elderly Bellaire woman in 2012. The jury will determine guilt or innocence in a case were the death penalty is an option.

Jury selection was completed Thursday in preparation for the trial of Devin Wayne Fuller, 20, 3567 Franklin St., Bellaire. He is charged with counts of aggravated murder, committed in the course of rape and aggravated burglary. He is also charged with one count aggravated burglary and one count burglary.

His co-defendant is Brandon Michael Phelps, 21, 1281 Birch St., Bellaire. Both face two additional counts of trespassing.

Fuller faces possible sentences of 25-to-life, 30-to-life, life without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.

The victim, Lydia Ashworth, 92, was found dead in her Bellaire home.

Common Pleas Judge John M. Solovan II gave the potential jurors initial instructions during the final selection phase.

“Our purpose is to obtain a fair and impartial jury. The state of Ohio and the defendant are entitled to jurors who approach this case with open minds and agree to keep their minds open until the verdict is reached,” he said, adding that a jury’s obligation includes the call to be fair and impartial while listening to all evidence, to follow the law and to apply their common sense.

Paul Scarcella of the Ohio District Attorney’s office, Capital Punishment division, gave instructions as to what constitutes reasonable doubt and pointed out factors the jurors will analyze, including the quality of evidence and reliability of witnesses.

Defense attorneys noted that the purpose of a trial was not to solve the crime but only to determine if the state has met its burden and established the elements of the crime. They also described the process by which evidence is processed and can be interpreted.

Solovan added that the court will provide the criteria by which jurors will judge the witnesses.

Testimony will begin Monday at 8:45 a.m. Court days will begin at 8:30 a.m. afterward with the presentation of evidence expected to end Wednesday. The jury will then enter deliberation.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com