April 18, 2014

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Judge Burge has been removed from case after dispute with assistant prosecutor

Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge has been removed from the case of convicted killer Stanley Jalowiec because of a dispute with Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo over whether the judge had already decided to grant Jalowiec the new trial he seeks.

Burge

Cillo

But Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor rejected Cillo’s request that Burge be barred from having anything to do with any case that he is assigned to handle.

Cillo had argued that Burge told Assistant County Prosecutor Nick Hanek, who had been assigned to Burge’s courtroom, that Cillo “thinks that I would make a ruling based on him when there’s a man who certainly deserves a new trial.”

Burge has denied saying that both in responses to Cillo’s request that he be removed and in the media. O’Connor wrote that Burge’s comments to the press have created a public dispute that could lead people to believe he had “become Cillo’s adversary.”

“This public dispute cannot be allowed to overshadow the pending Jalowiec case,” O’Connor wrote.

The chief justice also wrote that Cillo’s arguments that Burge had shown bias against him in other areas were “unconvincing.”

She wrote, for instance, that Cillo took a disagreement over whether Cillo and one of Nancy Smith’s attorneys asked Burge to hold off ordering Smith back to prison in the controversial Head Start child molestation case to be an attack on his honesty. Burge told the Ohio Parole Board that while that happened, Cillo disagreed when he talked to the Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

O’Connor also rejected an argument that Cillo could be a called as a witness against in a Disciplinary Counsel case because no such case has been filed.

She concluded that granting Cillo’s request would prevent Burge from being involved in cases involving the death penalty and serious crimes because those are the cases that Cillo typically handles.

“At this point, Cillo’s speculative allegations are insufficient to issue such an extraordinary remedy,” O’Connor wrote.

Read Wednesday’s Chronicle for more on this story.