Dean Trial Set to Move Forward With Jury Selection Likely Set For Next Month

By Benjamin Cox on July 30, 2021 at 7:38am

Three separate pre-trial motions were heard in Brown County Court today surrounding the murder trail of John Dean.

Dean is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of 44 year old Rebecca Niewohner on the evening of June 14th, 2019 in Mt. Sterling.

Defense Attorney John Leonard had filed a motion to quash and suppress evidence surrounding approximately 1,500 pages of Facebook messages submitted to the court as a part of a search warrant saying that it violated his client’s right to privacy. Judge Charles H.W. Burch said that probable cause did exist for the search warrant of Dean’s Facebook and that no capricious conduct had occurred in the execution of the search warrant, thus denying Leonard’s request to quash and suppress.

The more lengthy discussion in court surrounded the defense’s motion to compel the State to be in compliance of discovery of testimony and witnesses. Leonard argued that Brown County State’s Attorney Michael Hill had not provided summary information of testimony on the state’s witnesses. The attorneys and Judge Burch read through the witness list and gave summary information on what about a dozen witnesses that may be used during the upcoming trial. Judge Burch ordered the state to turn over as much information as possible in discovery, particularly surrounding witnesses that may or may not be called in regards to Dean’s Facebook Messenger conversations.

Hill took exception to Leonard’s request for witnesses from the volume of documents in court. Hill says it was a matter of understanding Leonard’s request at the time: “Supplying the witnesses will take care of Mr. Leonard’s questions, and I think the court alluded to that. I can’t just walk up and put 1,500 pages on the desk and say: ‘Judge, we’re just going to start reading through these.’ I would have to call witnesses for anything I wanted to use, so that will necessarily narrow that down. To Mr. Leonard’s question, he didn’t phrase it, to me, as ‘I need more witnesses from you and let me know who you are going to call,’ which of course I have a duty to do that. It was almost as if he wanted me to cut those down before that, and maybe I misunderstood his point or his motion. That’s basically what it amounts to.”

The other major issue surrounding the case prior to trial is jury selection. Leonard has asked that the court have the interview of potential jurors occur on an individual basis. Jury summons for the upcoming trial is set to be sent out in a few weeks and there is a potential for 150 jury candidates for the case. Hill says he understands the reason for the motion and may agree with it: “Given the nature of the case and the size of our community perhaps doing it one at a time is the best way that we ensure that we get a fair and impartial jury. That’s why I indicated that I’m leaning toward agreeing to the motion. I guess we will have to discuss that further when we have our next pre-trial [hearing]. I don’t know.”

The next pre-trial conference is set for August 11th at 3PM with the trial anticipated to begin on September 20th. According to the court, the trial is expected to last approximately two weeks once proceedings begin.