Murder charges dismissed in 2009 Youngstown case - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

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Murder charges dismissed in 2009 Youngstown case

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A Judge dismissed murder charges against Paul Brown of Youngstown Monday.

Brown's defense attorney says evidence that could have cleared Brown was allegedly tampered with while in Youngstown Police custody.

April Jackson, the mother of murder victim Ashten Jackson tells 21 News, "I'm not going to have any justice.  My heart hurts, my family hurts."

The Youngstown woman says she's lost faith in the justice system.

"Because the Youngstown Police Department failed, not just me, but even Judge Sweeney, even the prosecutor, they failed us seriously," Jackson said.

Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney ordered that charges against Brown be dropped after a hearing where the defense alleged Brown's cell phone was tampered with, and the sim card switched, while held as evidence by Youngstown Police.

The defense claims a phone message existed that could have cleared Brown, and Brown's Attorney accuses Lieutenant John Kelty of quote, "concealing and tampering with evidence."

Attorney Anthony Meranto, who represents Brown says he believes the justice system worked today.

"I will just say that this is the best example we have of our government at work. There were some errors made on the other side, in one branch of the government, and it was corrected by the judicial branch here," Meranto said. "This is the most difficult decision any Judge could have made, to dismiss a murder case. But I believe it was the right decision based on the facts, and all the facts in this matter," 

In court papers, Judge Sweeney found that when the evidence bag was brought to court, "the Court observed that the seal had been broken and the bag was resealed with scotch tape. ...The Court finds the mishandling of the cell phone while in Youngstown Police's custody extremely disturbing. ...The Court finds this "action" an act of conscious wrongdoing which cannot be overlooked."

"I would think in light of everything that transpired in this case that certainly Youngstown Police themselves, would be concerned about how this case was handled from the outset. ... And certainly with regard to this specific piece of evidence, and what exactly happened," Defense Attorney Meranto said.

Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley responded, "Certainly when there's mention of some potential misdeeds by the police department, we have to make sure we deal with that. We also have to remember that there's a victim's family here. Somebody's not being answerable for this murder. We need to make sure that we do a good job, and see if we can maybe salvage the case if possible, or we make sure that any mistakes that were made on our part are fixed." 

Mahoning County Prosecutor's are considering an appeal.

As for Brown, he will remain locked up on a federal weapons charge at a prison in Florida until September 3, 2014.

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