‘I want to make sure this guy gets a fair trial,’ attorney says fighting to get Youngstown murder case thrown out

Local News

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Mahoning County judge must now decide whether or not a Youngstown man’s murder trial should take place.

Lavonte Knight is charged in the October 2018 shooting death of Josh Donatelli.

Defense attorney Dave Betras is defending Knight and has accused lead prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa of purposely keeping evidence from the defense.

A hearing on the matter happened Friday in the courtroom of Judge Jack Durkin.

Prosecutors have admitted there were some delays in sharing all their materials in the case, but Betras told Judge Durkin he doesn’t accept that.

“This is not an actual mistake, but this is a habit. This is a ritual. This is a way that she goes about her business,” Betras said. “I want to make sure this guy gets a fair trial and the process is fair.”

With the trial set for next month, Betras argues Cantalmessa’s failure to share all the evidence right away is grounds for dismissal of the murder charges, or short of that, that the judge prevent her from prosecuting it.

“If I did that, they would be shackled and thrown in front of the Supreme Court,” Betras said.

Prosecutors argue despite Betras’ histrionics, the trial should still go forward and Cantalamessa should prosecute.

“Can Lavonte Knight get a fair trial? Can he still get a fair trial in August? The answer is unequivocally yes,” said Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin.

After roughly two hours of back and forth between the lawers on Friday, Judge John Durkin said he would take the arguments under advisement and will make a decision later. For now, Knight is set for trial August 9.

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