Attorneys to argue Garvin’s appeal case

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, June 29, 2011

PORTSMOUTH — Oral arguments have been scheduled in Kara Garvin’s appeal of her conviction for the murder of a Franklin Furnace family in 2008.

Public defender Claire Cahoon will present the case for Garvin to the judges of the Fourth Appellate District on Thursday, July 21, at the Scioto County Courthouse.

Garvin, originally from Franklin Furnace, was convicted on March 9, 2010, in a jury trial in the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Howard H. Harcha III. She was found guilty of shooting to death Ed and Juanita Mollett and their daughter, Christina, in their Franklin Furnace trailer on Dec. 22, 2008.

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Garvin was facing the death penalty. But that same jury spared her life, sentencing her to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years for the murder of Ed Mollett and life in prison without the possibility of parole ever for the shootings of Juanita and Christina Mollett.

During the five-day trial two eyewitnesses testified against Garvin — James “Bob” Damron, a neighbor to the Molletts, and the then 6-year-old grandson to Ed and Juanita, who was in the trailer at the time of the shooting. Immediately after the murders sheriff’s detectives showed Damron and the child photos of several women with both identifying the photos of Garvin.

Those identifications are among four points Cahoon argues prevented Garvin from having a fair trial.

“The pretrial photographic identification procedure was so unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to misidentification that Ms. Garvin was denied the due process of law,” according to the brief filed with the appellate court.

The brief also states that the “trial court violated Ms. Garvin’s constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by denying Ms. Garvin a change of venue based on pretrial publicity.”

The other two points concern the fact that one of the jurors is a cousin of Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini.

“The trial court violated Ms. Garvin’s constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by failing to question a juror about whether her relationship to the county sheriff would affect her ability to be fair and unbiased,” the brief states. “Trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance when counsel failed to question or object to a prospective juror who was the first cousin of the county sheriff.”

Meigs County attorney Charles Knight, who was Garvin’s lower court public defender, said in an email he didn’t recall the issue about the juror.

“I haven’t read the appeal brief but it is always my position that separate appellate counsel should review that record and raise any issue that may allow the defendant to obtain a new trial,” Knight’s email stated “I advocated that similarly in Kara’s appeal and talked with counsel for her on several occasions. I have not read her brief but I am sure it covers the important issues.”

Also on April 19, Garvin’s attorney filed a post-conviction petition to have her conviction declared void because her constitutional rights were denied. That petition focuses on the denial of a pretrial motion for a change of venue “as the prospective jury pool was infected by inflammatory pretrial publicity. The petition was supported by newspaper articles covering the case.”

That petition is before the Scioto County Common Pleas Court.

Cahoon, contacted via email at her Columbus office, said she had no comment on the case. A call made to the office of Assistant Prosecutor Pat Apel was not returned by press time.

Currently, Garvin, who continues to maintain her innocence, is housed at the Ohio Reformatory for Women at Marysville.