Judge to decide if identification of witness from 2018 murder case will be allowed in trial

Local News

Judge Anthony Donofrio held a suppression hearing Wednesday in the case of Antonio Davis, 18, who faces murder and aggravated robbery counts

Antonio Davis, 18, faces murder and aggravated robbery counts in the March 22, 2018, shooting search of Damon Marinoff, 15, of Farrell, Pa.

Credit: Mahoning County Jail

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio ( WKBN) — A Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge will decide if an identification of a witness in a murder case will be allowed to be introduced at trial.

Judge Anthony Donofrio held a suppression hearing Wednesday in the case of Antonio Davis, 18, who faces murder and aggravated robbery counts in the March 22, 2018, shooting search of Damon Marinoff, 15, of Farrell, Pa.

Police said Marinoff was killed after he was lured over the internet to a vacant Sherwood Avenue to sell a phone.

Marinoff was instead robbed and killed.

Davis was indicted in May of 2019 as a juvenile.

At issue is a photo array in October 2018 when a witness picked Davis out of a photo lineup. Defense attorney says the identification should be thrown out because the witness looked at the lineup twice without asking to look at it the second time.

Detective Sgt. Ron Barber is the lead investigator on the case and prepared the photos used but the photos were shown by Detective Sgt. Michael Lambert.

Lambert had no involvement in the case and had no idea Davis was a suspect. He testified he was a “blind administrator,” or knew no details of the case.

Prosecutors played a video of Lambert showing the witness the photos, which were placed in several different folders. The video shows Lambert had two different sessions showing the witness different arrays of photo each time.

In the second array, the witness looked at the folders once, then again, lingering over three for several seconds, including the last folder. The witness picked one of the photos when he was finished.

“He strikes me the most,” the witness said of the photo, who then initialed a form saying he recognized that photo.

In the first array, the witness asked to see certain folders, so Lambert repeated the entire photo lineup.

In the first array, the witness did say he saw someone familiar but that person may not have been involved In Marinoff’s death.

In the second photo array, Lambert did ask the witness if he wanted to look at it again. Lambert also said he never hinted or told the witness what photo was the suspect’s.

Lambert said he did not ask the witness about his degree of confidence in the identification. He said he always asks a witness to identity based on “yes” or “no,” not degrees.

Meranto said that is contrary to state guidelines on photo lineups.

Lambert said he asked the witness if he wanted to see the second array again and the witness said yes.

Meranto tried to ask if the guidelines allow Lambert to ask the witness a second time, but Judge Donofrio said that is for the court to decide.

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