Judge in Ford case holds court in office, bans public despite objections

From The Akron Beacon Journal While her husband lay lifeless in their bed, Margaret Schobert was lured to her New Franklin home where Shawn Eric Ford Jr. was waiting with a sledgehammer. Like her husband, Jeffrey, Mrs. Schobert was bludgeoned to death by Ford, the Akron man who had been dating their teenage daughter.

For Margaret Schobert’s death, an outwardly emotional Summit County jury decided Ford should be executed. Common Pleas Judge Tom Parker has the final say on Ford’s sentencing. No hearing date was set (Oct. 31) when the jury released its verdict after about six hours of deliberation over two days.

... Parker and the trial attorneys met early Friday in private — despite objections by the Beacon Journal — apparently to discuss the psychiatric report. Parker gave no reason for the closed-door hearing when he ushered Ford, prosecutors, defense attorneys, deputies and a stenographer from the courtroom and into his chambers.

At the time, a Beacon Journal reporter was the only member of the public seated in the gallery.

When the reporter told the judge that the newspaper was objecting to the closed-door hearing, Parker said “OK,” and the door closed.

About 15 minutes later, Parker and the others returned to the courtroom and again went on the record. During the brief session, Parker ruled that a presentencing report and the psychiatrist’s report on Ford’s mental health would not be shown to jurors.

The Beacon Journal has requested a transcript of the closed-door hearing, which is the second decision by Parker that the newspaper has questioned this week.

On Wednesday, courthouse workers — based on orders from Parker — placed a black plastic trash bag over a Beacon Journal vending box stationed outside the courthouse. Newspapers in the courthouse cafeteria were also removed.

Parker made the demand when the newspaper published an interview with Lloyd, the juror who was removed during deliberations.

After the newspaper complained, Parker had the bag lifted and a placard was put in the vending box window. The placard was later removed. The juror’s story was not visible in the window box.