The trial of Anthony Sowell, the alleged perpetrator of eleven murders in his home on Imperial Avenue, will begin with tomorrow's pre-trial conference. At issue will be a number of motions: a gag order, a motion to preserve the crime scene, and motions for funds for expert witnesses and investigators. All of these motions have been filed by the defendant.
The gag order prevents all parties from commenting on the case outside of the courtroom, so neither party can speak to the press until there is a final verdict. This does not prevent the press from attending the proceedings and reporting on events.
Preserving the crime scene means that the defense is still sorting through the forensic evidence for anything that could show Sowell may be innocent. Typically, the prosecution would file such a motion as investigators continue to search for more evidence and go through the long process of analyzing and identifying what was left by the victims and suspect.
Sowell is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity and has been declared indigent, so he is also seeking funds from the state to hire a mental health professional as an expert witness to prove his mental illness along with an investigator and mitigation specialist. An investigator is typical for a defendant as another person reviewing the case for alternative possibilities. The mitigation specialist prepares evidence to help reduce Sowell's sentence after verdict. This is also typical of a defendant. As an indigent person, Sowell is entitled to assistance in putting forward his case, including money for the hiring of expert witnesses and other specialists as needed.
For a plea of insanity to succeed, Sowell would have to prove that a mental illness kept him from either knowing what he was doing or knowing that what he was doing was wrong. This defense rarely succeeds and the prosecution is confident that Sowell's plea will fail as well.
With these motions resolved, the stage will be set for Sowell's trial to begin after jury selection is completed. Selection will likely be over the course of this month and perhaps into January depending on how quickly twelve people who can hear the case fairly can be found among Cuyahoga County's registered voters.