By Carol McIntire
The prosecution and defense both rested their cases in the Kenneth E Blanchard murder trail Thursday.
Common Pleas Court Judge Dominick E Olivito, Jr. released the jury for the day just before 2 p.m., saying closing arguments and instructions to the jury would begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
Judge Olivito denied a motion for judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 immediately after the prosecution rested its case, just after 10:30 a.m.
Defense Attorney Jeff Jakmides asked for a direct judgment (acquittal) saying, “The state did not prove that Mr. Blanchard intended to cause the death of the decedent (Michael Fairchild).”
“I believe the evidence shows use of a deadly weapon, so there was intent to kill,” said Olivito.
Jakmides filed a motion with the court to give the jury instruction on self-defense at that time, which the judge declined to rule on.
“I think it is premature to make a ruling on this,” Olivito said. “I don’t know that the defense has met its burden to prove self-defense so I am not going to rule at this time, but hold it until the close of all evidence.”
The defense called three witnesses to the stand, Dr. James Pritchard, Francis Smith and Ed Smith.
When Jakmides rested the defense’s case, Prosecuting Attorney Steven Barnett and Assistant Ohio Attorney General Paul Scarella requested Olivito instruct the jury they could consider the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Based on his review of the evidence, Olivito said he was not going to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter.
“There was no evidence presented that showed he knew who it was,” Olivito said, referring to Blanchard not knowing who Fairchild was when he shot him. “I don’t think the evidence in any way, that the state got in, showed a contentious relationship between these two, and I am surprised it did not appear in the case.”
Scarella argued Blanchard’s 45-minute interview with Minerva police, which was played for the jury, included statements by Blanchard about the contention between the two men. He said when Blanchard was sitting in the back of a police cruiser; he admitted he shot Michael Fairchild.
All motions were made and ruled upon in open court without the jury present.
The prosecution’s final witness, Dr. Renee Robinson, a forensic pathologist with the Stark County Coroner’s office, began the day’s testimony.
Robinson identified photos and explained the path bullets took when then entered Fairchild’s body. She could not say in which order the bullets were fired.
She said Fairchild was shot five times, twice in the chest, once in the left arm (the bullet went through the arm and into the chest cavity, once in the left side and once in the wrist.
She said at least three of the wounds would have been fatal.
She testified due to the absence of “tattooing” on the body (gunpowder), the gun “was not exceedingly close to the body” when it was fired.
She also testified it was not possible to determine exactly there the two men were when the shots were fired.
Scarella asked Robinson for an explanation of the toxicology reports on blood and urine samples.
“The blood samples were negative for opioids,” she said, “so nothing would indicate he was using drugs at the time of his death.”
She noted urine samples indicated the past use of opioids.
On cross examination, Jakmides asked Robinson about bruising on the legs and arms of the deceased and the “track marks” she referred to on the autopsy.
Robinson said the track marks indicated to her, he (Fairchild) was a habitual drug user.
Jakmides said Robinson referred to Fairchild in her report as “5-9, 195-pound well-developed, well-nourished person. “Since he did not have drugs in his body, he would not would not have been slow to react, right?” he asked. Robinson replied that he was correct.
Dr. Pritchard, a former Stark County coroner, identified himself as a self-employed expert witness, noting he is certified in forensic medicine.
He reviewed Blanchard’s health issues and the side effects of several of his medications, noting his diabetes causes eye problems, including blurred vision, and his conditions decrease his mobility.
“What if he was in a fight with a 5-9, 195-pound, well-developed, well-nourished person,” asked Jakmides.
“He is going to lose the fight,” replied Pritchard.
After objections by the prosecution were raised when Jakmides asked Pritchard if he had an opinion on what happened Aug. 31, 2016, when Blanchard shot Fairchild, Judge Olivito overruled the objection and allowed Pritchard to continue.
Pritchard said his opinion was that Blanchard entered the trailer though a secondary door (back door) using a ladder, went to the front of the trailer through a narrow hallway, checked the kitchen and living room and, as he was walking back the hallway to the door he came in, saw a person in the bedroom coming at him, turned and fired the gun, which was in his right hand.
On cross-examination, Scarella asked Pritchard if Blanchard was wearing glasses in the courtroom, to which he replied “no.”
Scarella then asked if Blanchard was wearing glasses during the 45-minute interview with the Minerva police officer. Pritchard said he couldn’t recall if he watched the 45-minute video of the interview while reviewing evidence.
Scarella then asked Pritchard how he could tell the position of a person when they were shot, to which Pritchard replied, “By the angle of the bullet.”
Scarella asked Pritchard to stand and demonstrate two different angles with him using a finger for a gun.
“Is the angle different if I am standing up,” Scarella asked.
“Yes,” replied Pritchard.
“Yes because you have two people in a shooting situation, a dynamic situation, people are moving,” said Scarellla
Scarella asked Pritchard if the only information he had to base his opinion on was from Blanchard.
Pritchard replied from Blanchard, the Minerva PD report and BCI report.
“So the only information you have in this case came from the defense, or Mr. Blanchard,” asked Scarella.
“Correct,” replied Pritchard.
Francis Smith and Ed Smith both testified they were at the 323 Valley St. address where the shooting occurred on Aug. 30, 2016, to mow the lawn. The both testified there were no signs anyone was in the home when they left and the back door was shut.
Ed Smith testified the door was open while they were there and Blanchard reached up and shut it.
During opening statements Wednesday, Jakmides stated the reason Blanchard went to the trailer Aug. 31 with a gun was because he noticed the back door was open when he drove by earlier in the day Aug. 31 and he suspected someone burglarized the trailer.