YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – For the third time since his indictment, Robert Seman was brought back to court for a pre-trial on Wednesday.
Judge Maureen Sweeney wanted to be sure the defendant was following the process and communicating with his attorneys. Seman said he is communicating.
Seman faces capital murder charges in the deaths of 10-year-old Corrine Gump and her grandparents, Billy and Judy Schmidt. The three were murdered in March. Prosecutors say Seman set fire to the Schmidt’s house where Corrine was living in order to keep the girl from testifying that he had been raping her.
The burned house on Youngstown’s south side has stood empty since the fire. The house has become an eyesore to the neighborhood while defense lawyers hire their own experts to look for evidence that might clear the defendant.
“We’ve received complaints from the health department that all the neighbors complaining about rats by the property so we’d ask that the defense please inspect the property as soon as possible,” Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said.
Lawyers said they will be meeting later in the week to choose their experts and hope to have the inspections done within the month so the house can ultimately be demolished.
In the meantime, the defense has concerns about the process of choosing jurors when the case comes to trial in 2016.
“We’ve had significant pretrial publicity which requires all the more using the appropriate standard,” said Attorney Lynn Maro, Seman’s lawyer.
Lawyers said the standard was adopted by the Ohio Supreme Court to help maintain pools of perspective jurors in high profile cases such as Seman’s case.
“They cannot be excused simply for conscientious or religious opposition to the death penalty,” Maro said.
Another hearing is set for early October.