Family of Howland man charged in capital murder case wants fair trial

Nasser Hamad is charged in the shooting that killed two and injured three in Howland Township last month


WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Howland man accused of killing two people and injuring three others during a shooting on his property a few weeks ago went before a judge again Thursday. His attorney is claiming self-defense, but prosecutors are calling the crime murder.

Nasser Hamad was silent for his latest court appearance – a more traditional proceeding this time around. Now, without the bandage on his head but with his arm still in a cast, Hamad sat quietly at the defense table with his family not too far away.

“The only thing I want for my brother is just to have a fair trial. I want the truth to come out. That is the only thing we want, nothing to get sidetracked,” said Mike Hamad, Nasser’s brother.

Judge Ronald Rice wants a fair trial, too, noting the media coverage of the case so far. He said pretrial publicity could impact their ability to find an impartial jury.

“The court on its own is going to issue a gag order on this case,” Judge Rice said.

The gag order means attorneys, court personnel, and public officials can’t comment or talk about the details of the case outside of court proceedings.

Judge Rice also wrote up rules to keep order in his court. He ordered Hamad and the defense to refrain from outbursts and reactive or inflammatory gestures, like eye rolling and shaking heads.

He also ordered Hamad to be escorted to and from court by four Trumbull County Sherriff’s deputies to increase security.

Even before Thursday’s court appearance, Hamad’s attorney, Geoffrey Oglesby, filed a handful of motions. Included in those was a request to disqualify the judge and prosecutor’s office.

Another motion requested to dismiss the case for what Oglesby calls “selective prosecution,” claiming the three survivors — 20-year-old Bryce Hendrickson, 42-year-old April Vokes (Trent), and 17-year-old John Shivley — should be charged with hate crimes against Hamad.

He said he plans to file more motions — something prosecutors said is typical for this type of case.

“My experience in capital cases has been there are often 40, 50, sometimes upwards of close to 100 motions,” said Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker.

Hamad is charged with two counts of capital murder in the shooting deaths of  20-year-old Joshua Williams and 19-year-old Josh Haber. He is also charged with attempted murder for shooting Hendrickson, Vokes (Trent), and Shivley.

Hamad is scheduled to be back in court March 30 for another pretrial. A trial date is scheduled for May 22.

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