Attorneys for Bobby L. Cutts Jr. set out to protect his right to a fair trial, starting with who might be on a jury that hears the case.
Attorneys for Bobby L. Cutts Jr. set out to protect his right to a fair trial, starting with who might be on a jury that hears the case. Jury selection was one of several issues discussed Friday by defense attorneys, county prosecutors and the judge during a hearing at the Stark County Jail. Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr. denied most of the 20-some defense motions, which is not uncommon. Cutts, 30, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated murder and other charges tied to the deaths of Jessie M. Davis, 26, of Lake Township, and her unborn daughter. If convicted, he faces a potential death sentence. Cutts, a Canton police officer, and Davis have a young son, and Davis’ family has said he was the father of the unborn child, a girl to be named Chloe. Defense attorneys wanted to include licensed drivers in the list of potential jurors. They contend it would expand the pool and include more minorities. “We just want to make sure our client has a fair trial and the jury represents a fair cross-section of the community,” defense attorney Fernando Mack said after the hearing. The court generally selects jurors from among registered voters. As it is, nearly 90 percent of county residents are white, according to census figures, and all-white juries are not uncommon. Cutts is African-American. Just as race is a factor in American society, it’s a factor in this case, added defense attorney Myron Watson. Publicity also is a concern. The case attracted national media attention when Davis, nine months pregnant, went missing. Her body was recovered June 23 from a Summit County park. Prosecutors opposed the request to expand the jury pool and Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr. denied the motion. The judge also denied motions dealing with evidence held by prosecutors, grand jury proceedings and the legality of the death penalty. Many of the requests were standard for a death-penalty case, which can involve as many 70 motions. Mack said the hearing went as expected. The defense can ask Brown to reconsider his rulings, including the ones concerning jury selection. Stark County Prosecutor John D. Ferrero said his office will follow the court’s rules and wants Cutts to have a fair trial, including a fair and impartial jury. Neither side discussed evidence in the case, citing the judge’s gag order, but Mack said prosecutors have provided much of the information sought by the defense. Employment Status Earlier this week, city officials held a pre-disciplinary hearing for Cutts, who is suspended without pay. Safety Director Bernard Hunt said he will not make a decision on Cutts’ employment status until the court case concludes. The city says Cutts violated work rules pertaining to conformance to laws, reporting to work and conduct unbecoming of a police officer. Under the Canton Police Patrolmen’s Association union contract, the safety director cannot render a decision on disciplinary charges if they stem from criminal charges. Hunt said the disciplinary charges are related to the case. Canton Repository writer Ed Balint contributed to this story. Reach Repository writer Shane Hoover at (330) 580-8338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.