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Published: Wednesday, 4/21/2010

Trial dates set for pair in Henry County gag order case


NAPOLEON - Two Henry County residents whose manslaughter trials were delayed while the Ohio Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of an unusual gag order governing the cases are to go on trial later this year.

At a scheduling conference yesterday, Henry County Common Pleas Judge Keith P. Muehlfeld set a jury trial for Jayme Schwenkmeyer, 24, of Liberty Center, for Aug. 23. The trial for co-defendant David Knepley, 50, of Napoleon, was set for Oct. 18.

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down a gag order in the cases that would have prevented the media from reporting on Ms. Schwenkmeyer's trial until a jury had been seated in Mr. Knepley's trial.

Judge Muehlfeld, who issued the order, had said he knew of no other way to prevent the pool of potential jurors for the second trial from being tainted by media coverage of the first trial. He cited the rural county's small population and the large amount of pretrial publicity the cases had received.

In response to a motion by The Blade, the high court ruled the order "patently unconstitutional," saying the judge had a duty to give equal weight to a defendant's right to a fair trial and the media's right of free speech and press.

Henry County Prosecutor John Hanna said his goal remains to seat juries and hold the trials in Henry County

Both defendants are charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering children, stemming from the Aug. 15, 2007, death of Ms. Schwenkmeyer's 13-month-old daughter, Kamryn Gerken. Both are free on bond.

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