YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A jury was seated Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for two men accused of a 2018 triple murder where one of the victims was an infant.
Judge Maureen Sweeney is hearing the case against Taquashon Ray and Shainquon Sharpe, both 25, who are accused of the Nov. 7, 2018, shooting deaths of Edward Morris, 21; Valarcia Blair, 19; and their 3-month-old son, Tariq Morris, in a car at Pasadena and Gibson avenues. They face charges, including three counts of aggravated murder.
Jury selection was supposed to begin Monday but was pushed back because of bad weather.
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.
It took almost a year after the killings for the case to be presented to a grand jury. Detectives used evidence gathered from phones and social media to get an indictment.
In September, Judge Sweeney reversed an earlier ruling to try both defendants after prosecutors filed a motion asking her to reconsider and have both men tried together.
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.
In September, however, 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 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.
The case has also been delayed because of complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.