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Published: Tuesday, 9/15/2009

Suspect in beating of elderly can't switch judges

BLADE STAFF
Howard Howard
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A Toledo man charged in the May 1 beating and robbery of an elderly couple in their Mulberry Street home will have his case heard in Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gary Cook's courtroom.

In a 20-page opinion filed late Friday, Judge Cook denied a motion filed by attorneys for Edgar Howard, 47, of 222 Austin St. seeking to move the death-penalty case to Judge Stacy Cook's court because she already is presiding over an earlier criminal case against Howard. They argued that a local court rule requires that a new case be assigned to the judge presiding over a pending case involving the same defendant.

Howard could face the death penalty if convicted of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, felonious assault, and attempted murder in the beating death of Frances Fox, 88, and the assault on her husband, Kenneth, 74.

Judge Gary Cook, who is married to Judge Stacy Cook, denied the request, saying capital cases were assigned randomly and allowing Howard's case to be consolidated in Judge Stacy Cook's court “would facilitate ‘forum shopping' and undermine the random-assignment policy underlying the separate draw system for capital cases.”

He said the local court rule concerning consolidation of cases does not apply in capital cases.

“This Court cannot reasonably or equitably create a special exception for this particular capital case [or any similarly-situated cases in the future] from the General Division's longstanding practice of handling all capital cases pursuant to only the separate draw system for such cases,” Judge Gary Cook wrote.

Howard, who is being held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of $1.4 million bond in the aggravated murder case, also is charged with robbery for allegedly stealing money from a 99-year-old man May 22 and with aggravated burglary and felonious assault for allegedly punching an 88-year-old man to steal his money May 26.

Assistant prosecutors have filed a motion to dismiss the charges pending before Judge Stacy Cook. She has not yet ruled on the motion.

— Jennifer Feehan



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