ELYRIA – Accused killer Vincent Jackson Jr. waived a jury trial today with the intention of pleading guilty to aggravated murder and other charges in the 2008 slaying of Gas USA clerk Qiana Walton, but the hearing never made it past the selection of a three-judge panel that will decide whether Jackson will be executed for the crime if the plea is accepted.
Lorain County Probate Judge James Walther, the county’s presiding judge, drew cards to decide who would serve on the panel alongside Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi, who has been handling the Jackson case.
The second card drawn was that of county Common Pleas Judge James Burge, who earlier this year withdrew from hearing any cases being handled by Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo. Walther consulted with Burge, who told him he didn’t see a conflict in serving on a three-judge panel and that he would be willing to do so.
That prompted objections from Cillo, who said he plans to ask the Ohio Supreme Court to intervene and force Burge off the panel.
Cillo also brought up another possible conflict for Burge, who may have a financial interest in 600 Broadway in Lorain, where defense attorney J. Anthony Rich’s offices are.
Burge once owned the building, but had sold it to another attorney, who lost the building years ago. Cillo said it’s unclear who exactly Rich is paying rent to. If Burge still has an ownership in the building, Cillo said, there could be a conflict for both the judge and Rich.
After the hearing Rich said he pays rent to a company known as Whiteacre North. That company, Rich said, is owned by attorney Michael Tully and “co-owner,” although he declined to say who the co-owner is.
Rich said prosecutors haven’t brought up the issue in years and during the hearing accused Cillo of trying to seek a more favorable panel.
Read Thursday’s Chronicle for more on this story.