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Cops and Courts

Judge recuses himself from murder trials

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    Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Chris Cook



ELYRIA — A Lorain County judge has recused himself from presiding over the court cases of three men accused in the slaying of Zachary Mason.

On Monday, Judge Chris Cook stepped away from the cases of Lance Cheers, Keeon Green Jr. and Larry Hamilton Jr. due to Elyria Police Detective James Homoki being the lead detective on the investigation into the killing of Mason. According to Assistant County Prosecutor Laura Dezort, who is the lead prosecutor on the three cases, Homoki will be a material witness in the proceedings, court documents said.

Cook and Homoki are related through marriage. Cook said the recusal isn’t mandatory, but is rather discretionary. The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct mandates a judge in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned or where a person within the “third degree of relationship” is likely a witness in proceedings, according to court documents.

“While Detective Homoki is not technically ‘within the third degree of relationship’ with the court, he is close,” Cook said in court documents. “Accordingly, in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and despite the fact that the defendant has no objection to the court remaining on the case, the court hereby recuses itself from this matter.”

The cases have been transferred to the docket of Judge Raymond Ewers, who serves as the administrative judge of the General Division of Lorain County Common Pleas Court, for reassignment. The court that receives the three cases “may transfer a case of similar age and import” to Cook, court documents said.

Green and Cheers were indicted on two counts of special felony murder, two counts of first-degree felony aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence, while Hamilton was indicted on two counts of special felony murder, one count of aggravated robbery and two counts of tampering with evidence by a grand jury, according to court records.

Most of the charges also include gun specifications, which carry a mandatory sentence upon conviction.

Police have said Mason was at Southwyck Apartments complex, on West River Road North, about 6 p.m. Oct. 1 when he was shot on a second-floor landing. He managed to get outside before collapsing, and was taken to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, where he died.

All three men are being held in Lorain County Jail on $1 million bond.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.

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