Judge moves triple-murder case out of Mahoning County

Mahoning County Judge Maureen Sweeney found that an impartial jury could not be seated for Robert Seman's case

Lawyers for both sides in the capitol murder case against Robert Seman will be meeting every week now as they get closer to a planned September trial date.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Accused murderer Robert Seman’s case will be moved to another county after attempts to find an impartial jury here have failed.

Although steps were taken to prevent would-be jurors from talking about the case, enforcing that proved to be much more difficult.

One of Seman’s lawyers, Atty. Tom Zena, said some people had to be escorted out of the courthouse based on what they were saying in the jury pool. He also said some spread the news when they were selected to be on the jury.

“When they found out they were on this, they went to work and their fellow employees immediately told them what they thought she should do.”

Defense lawyers have argued the crush of news media coverage on the Seman case, as well as exposure through social media, was just too much.

“Anytime, day or night, at the touch of a screen, have access to all kinds of information and we know from some of the comments that they have been looking for it online,” Atty. Lynn Maro said.

Tuesday, Seman’s lawyers asked the judge to declare a mistrial or move the case out of the county.

Seman is accused of setting fire to a Youngstown home in March of 2015, killing 10-year-old Corinne Gump and her grandparents, Bill and Judy Schmidt. Prosecutors said Seman set fire to the house where they lived because Gump was set to testify against him in a rape case.

Defense attorneys said responses on questionnaires filled out by prospective jurors showed that the majority of the pool could not be impartial.

Still, prosecutors believe if they had been given the chance, a local jury could have been seated.

“With the internet and the news and the paper, everybody’s heard something. But like last time we tried to seat a jury, people knew the name but didn’t know any of the facts,” said Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Dawn Catalamessa.

Mahoning County Judge Maureen Sweeney questioned the jurors today before making her determination.

It was the second attempt at picking a local jury for the case. Last September, Judge Sweeney declared a mistrial in the case after it was determined that a few of the jurors made inappropriate comments about their opinions of Seman.

With the change-of-venue request granted, the process of moving the case begins.

First, it’s about finding a county able to handle the trial and choose a new pool of jurors. Then there are logistical issues.

“We’re gonna have to worry about where the defendant would be housed. If he’s gonna be housed in that county, if we’re gonna have to transport him every day, the security risks of either of those,” Cantalamessa said.

At this point, lawyers for both sides hope they can hold a trial before summer.

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