Deaf juror should have been excluded in drowning trial, Ohio Supreme Court rules
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that a judge should have excused a deaf juror in a murder case involving a Fairlawn man.
The court's decision means a new trial will be held for Scott Speer, who was accused of murdering his friend, James Barnett of Barberton.
Barnett, 39, drowned in Lake Erie after falling off —or, as prosecutors alleged, being pushed from — a boat into choppy nighttime waters near Port Clinton.
Speer, who was on the boat, was convicted in October 2007 of aggravated vehicular homicide and involuntary manslaughter related to the 2002 drowning death of Barnett. He was sentenced to four years in prison.
A jury acquitted Speer, 44, of aggravated murder and murder.
Speer appealed his conviction and sentence.
The 6th District Court of Appeals concluded he didn't receive a fair trial because a hearing-impaired woman was on the jury and she couldn't fully comprehend the vocal nuances in Speer's 911 call, a key piece of evidence in the case.
Prosecutors appealed that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. Speer was released on bond following the decision.
Justice Terrence O'Donnell, writing for the 5-2 court majority, found that the female juror's hearing impairment ''directly affected her ability to perceive and evaluate that evidence because she only read the colloquy [of the 911 call] from a real-time transcription.''