Martin family to have vigil, ask for trial to take place


By JOE GORMAN

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

As what would have been her mother’s 71st birthday approaches, Davida Brown wants movement soon on the case of the men accused of her 2010 murder, who have been locked up in jail since then.

Family members and friends will have a vigil for Vivian Martin, who was 67 when she was killed, in the 3600 block of Nelson Avenue at 6 p.m. Monday.

That is the spot where police say she was murdered.

Robert Brooks, 29, and Grant Cooper, 25, are both charged in her death, and each could face the death penalty if convicted. Both have been in the Mahoning County jail since they were arrested a few days after Martin’s death and are awaiting trial.

The two were indicted by a grand jury Oct. 10, 2010.

The case has been assigned to Common Pleas Judge James Evans.

Brown said she is fed up and scared. She said she is afraid that evidence may get lost or other problems may crop up because of the almost four years it has taken for the pair to go to trial.

“That scares me,” Brown said of the long delay.

Martin, 67, a cancer survivor and owner of Essence Realty, was found in a burning home in the 3600 block of Nelson Avenue on Sept. 20, 2010. Police said the pair lured Martin to the home to rob her, then killed her and set the home on fire to cover up the crime.

Already this year, the lead prosecutor on the case, Rebecca Doherty, has just finished prosecuting one death-penalty case and has started another. One of Cooper’s lawyers, Tom Zena, has also just finished defending a client — 42-year-old Willie Wilks — in a death-penalty case and his assistant in that case, Ron Yarwood, is one of Brooks’ lawyers.

The Wilks case is set for mitigation hearings next week. He was convicted of aggravated murder earlier this month with death-penalty specifications.

Doherty said she could not comment much on the delay other than to say that she is ready to try the case and she has explained that to the Brown family.

“We’ve been prepared since the day the crime occurred,” Doherty said.

Court records show that Brooks has a status hearing scheduled June 17. He has had more than 22 court hearings scheduled since he was arrested.

A trial in Cooper’s case was scheduled for March 17 but it was continued because his lawyer, Zena, was trying the Wilks case. Court records do not show a date for the case being rescheduled. Cooper has had more than 25 pretrial hearings scheduled in his case, court records show.

Brown said she hopes this year’s vigil is the last where the family will have to also bring attention to the fact the people accused of killing her mother have yet to come to court.

“As for the waiting, physically and mentally, it drains me,” Brown said.

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