The (Youngstown) Vindicator, April 12
A suspected rapist and triple murderer’s death plunge from a fourth-floor balcony of the Mahoning County Courthouse on Monday (April 10,) legally closed the book on a troubling criminal case in Youngstown.
But Robert Seman’s sudden fall onto that hard and unkind marble floor of the courthouse rotunda brought neither full closure nor justice for all in our community in this highly publicized and emotionally charged case.
The intense scrutiny and notoriety surrounding this case began shortly after the March 30, 2015, arson that destroyed the home of William and Judith Schmidt on Powers Way on Youngstown’s South Side. They and their 10-year-old granddaughter Corinne Gump all perished in the inferno.
Fingers of blame throughout the city almost instantly pointed to Seman as the firebug in that crime as the conflagration erupted on the very day that he was to face trial on charges brought in 2014 of rape involving young Corinne. …
… Through every step of the way, community outrage sizzled as many residents appeared convinced of Seman’s guilt long before his legitimate day of due process in court.
That made finding an impartial jury a yeoman’s effort and ultimately led to two mistrials and a change of venue out of Youngstown for the gruesome and heart-wrenching case.
Finally this week, just as it seemed the capital-murder case was finally ready to move forward in the Portage County Courthouse, that quest came to a sudden and screeching halt …
In the aftermath of Seman’s death and the concomitant suspension of legal proceedings against him, many questions linger. Would testimony and all evidence at the trial prove Seman’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? Would new revelations from witnesses change the complexion of the case? If Seman were convicted, would jurors find the crimes suitable enough to mete out capital punishment? …
For the loved ones of the victims, Seman’s suicide jump may bring at least temporary relief, knowing that the prime suspect in the heartless crime is now dead. Nonetheless, as long as questions linger, justice for all will forever remain elusive.
The (Findlay) Courier, April 15
Lost in the discussion of prescription pain pill misuse and heroin overdose deaths these days is the still-alarmingly high number of people being killed by drunk drivers.
Last year alone, 40 percent of traffic-related deaths in Ohio involved an impaired driver.
It may take time to bring that number down, but a new law which went into effect earlier this month and is supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving should help.
“Annie’s Law” increases certain penalties for first-time offenders of the state’s operating a motor vehicle under the influence law, and should reduce OVI-related deaths.
Under it, the mandatory minimum license suspension is 12 months instead of six. Judges have the option of ordering ignition interlock devices — miniature Breathalyzers — that prevent a car from starting if a driver’s blood alcohol content exceeds the legal limit of 0.08 percent. …
Annie’s Law was named after Annie Rooney, 36, of Chillicothe, who was hit and killed by a five-time repeat drunk driver in Ross County in 2013.
MADD was among the groups which encouraged lawmakers to pass the bill, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year.
… The states with the strongest interlock laws have seen the greatest results.
For example, West Virginia has seen a reduction of 50 percent in drunk-driving deaths and New Mexico 38 percent. Those states, however, require all drunk-driving offenders to use ignition interlock systems.
Ohio’s version isn’t that strict, but is still a step in the right direction. Municipal court judges must make great use of the new tool whenever possible, knowing that each time they do can potentially save a life.