YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge Wednesday reversed an earlier ruling to try separately two defendants in a November 2018 triple homicide where an infant was among the victims.
In a judgment entry, Judge Maureen Sweeney agreed to a request by prosecutors to try Taquashon Ray and Shainquon Sharpe, both 25, together on charges of aggravated murder for the killings.
Judge Sweeney had agreed to a request by Ray’s attorneys in May to separate the trials, because of fears that statements made by witnesses for Sharpe could incriminate Ray and that Sharpe himself may opt not to testify, which would preclude any chance of him being cross examined.
Last week, prosecutors asked Judge Sweeney to reconsider her decision, saying in their motion that Judge Sweeney could order the testimony of jailhouse informants be limited so they include no incriminating statements against Ray or a deposition can be taken that can exclude similar testimony.
Defense attorneys objected, saying that prosecutors were, in effect, asking for a do over and that prosecutors cited no case law in their motion to reconsider.
In her judgment entry, Judge Sweeney said she was provided with statements and interviews with detectives by Sharpe, Ray and other witnesses who are expected to testify. She said in her entry that she can issue instructions to limit portions of testimony by witnesses and “other means available” to protect the rights of both defendants.
Judge Sweeney said the motion makes sense because both defendants are charged with the same crime, and there has been a change in counsel for Sharpe since she made her original motion. Sharpe’s attorneys have not filed a request for separate trials.
Sharpe and Ray were indicted almost a year after the Nov. 7, 2018 shooting deaths of Edward Morris, 21; Valarica Blair, 19; and their 3-month-old son, Tariq Morris, in a car at Pasadena and Gibson avenues, on several charges, including three counts of aggravated murder.
Police used evidence from several phones and social media postings to charge the two.
Police said it appeared Edward Morris was the target of an ambush and Blair and the baby just happened to be with Morris when the ambush was sprung.
Investigators will not comment on a motive.
Trial for the case is set for Nov. 8.