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Ohio public defender set in Irwin retrial

March 5, 2010

LISBON - An attorney from the Ohio Public Defender's Office in Columbus will defend Andrew Irwin in his return trip as a murder defendant in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court.

Judge C. Ashley Pike ordered the appointment Wednesday at the request of Irwin's appellate counsel, Margaret Amer Robey, who filed a motion Monday asking for appointment of trial counsel and the scheduling of a bond hearing.

A bond hearing and status conference will be set later this month, once its determined which attorney from the state public defender's office is handling the case.

Irwin, 28, remains in a state prison serving 15 years to life for the August 2006 stabbing death of 21-year-old Emily Foreman, who died of multiple stab wounds after being attacked in her Liverpool Township home. A jury found him guilty of murder in 2007, but the 7th District Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in September and the Supreme Court of Ohio denied the prosecution's appeal of the overturned conviction.

A new trial was ordered by the appellate court based on ineffective assistance of counsel and alleged abuse of discretion by Pike, who denied Irwin a new trial shortly after his first one. His attorney at the time, George Kafantaris, claimed to have new evidence, which was presented after Irwin was convicted.

Kafantaris has since been disbarred related to improper dealings with clients in Trumbull County. He reported as required Thursday night at the Columbiana County Jail to serve a 20-day sentence for contempt of court related to some of his actions during the Irwin trial.

He's been ordered to pay for his stay, but Columbiana County will end up footing part of the bill for his former client's new murder trial.

State law requires a county to provide legal counsel to represent indigent defendants who can't afford their own legal counsel. Kafantaris had been hired counsel, but Irwin was declared indigent for his appeal and remains indigent.

Under most circumstances, a judge would appoint an attorney from the nonprofit corporation known as the Criminal Defense Company, a group of Columbiana County attorneys who take on public defender cases under contract with the county commissioners. The commissioners pay a set amount to the CDC and each attorney is paid a contract amount by the CDC depending on the types and numbers of cases they handle.

In this case, Robey requested the appointment of the Ohio Public Defender's Office, noting in her motion that the OPDO had been in contact with Irwin and his family since the time of his conviction and expressed a willingness to accept appointment as his trial counsel.

When asked who will pay for the Ohio public defender, OPDO spokesman Amy Borror said the attorney or attorneys on the case will keep track of their hours and the bill will be sent to the county, with the state then reimbursing the county for 35 percent of the cost. The county will be required to pay 65 percent of the cost.

She said the hourly rate and mileage will be worked out with the county.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at



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