Thursday, July 17, 2003

Ricketts' defender wants new trial venue

Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - Rhonda Ricketts' murder case has received so much publicity that her lawyer wants her trial moved.

Defense lawyer John Paul Rion said Wednesday that he still intends to pursue a battered woman's defense, but he has asked a judge to consider a change of venue.

Ricketts, 50, is charged with aggravated murder in the May 13 shooting of her ex-husband, Steve, at the house they shared on Silverwood Farms Drive.

Authorities said the couple's attempts to reconcile had failed and that Steve Ricketts had served his ex-wife with an eviction notice days before his death.

In an emotional 911 call to police, Ricketts said she shot her 45-year-old husband after he hit her, and that he had beaten her repeatedly - a claim that has been disputed by their children who lived with them.

"The Warren County community is small enough that everyone probably has heard about this case and talked about it and probably formed some opinions about it, good or bad," Rion said.

"We're not forum shopping. We trust the Warren County jurors as much as everybody else. We simply want a group of people that have not heard of this case."

Although a date has not been set, Rion said he thinks the case will go to trial in January. He said defense evidence will include photographs, letters and other documented proof that Ricketts was battered multiple times by her ex-husband.

Judge Neal Bronson is expected to consider Rion's request for a change of venue and other motions in a full-day hearing Sept. 10.

Rion also has asked Bronson to throw out Ricketts' statement to police, any evidence officers seized from her car - where Ricketts told police she kept the newly purchased gun used in the killing - and information found on her personal computer.

Rion contends that police did not read Ricketts her Miranda rights, nor did they have probable cause to think that the car and computer contained any evidence in the homicide.


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