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Anderson on Trial for Sixth Time

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Christopher Anderson, 43, of Austintown, Ohio is facing the possibility of a sixth murder trial since 2002. Anderson is accused of choking 22 year-old Amber Zurcher with a cord after attending her party in June 2003.

He suggests that the state has been trying him for the same crime over and over, which violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Anderson has requested a repeal, which a judge has refused. Of Anderson’s other five trials, two ended in hung juries; two ended with mistrials and one ended in his conviction which was overturned on appeal. Now, the Ohio Supreme Court has two decisions: whether a sixth trial is fair and whether Anderson should be granted appeal.

John B. Juhasz, Anderson’s lawyer, wrote in a letter requesting his appeal: “The state has offered no new evidence linking Anderson to this murder…There is simply no reason to believe that another trial will do anything except subject Anderson to expense, harassment and anxiety and result in another hung jury.”

However, two assistant county prosecutors—Dawn Cantalamessa and Rebecca Doherty—argue back, saying that the state doesn’t require the dismissal of a case after a certain number of trials. Likewise, another assistant prosecutor, Ralph Rivera, has appealed the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

On Oct. 8, Rivera and Juhasz both argued before seven Ohio Supreme Court Justices on this issue. Supreme Court Justice William O’ Neill challenged Rivera by asking, “How do you affect [the right to double jeopardy] if you are not allowed to appeal it?”

Rivera countered by saying, “The double jeopardy clause does not have to do with this particular case because the heart of the clause has to do with acquittal. We are not talking about an acquittal here.”

Supreme Court Justice Ann Lanzinger also pushed back against Rivera, arguing, “So the fact that [Anderson] has been tried five times already doesn’t affect your argument?”

Rivera suggests that since Anderson’s trials have ended in hung juries or mistrials that it is constitutional to try Anderson once more for the murder of Zurcher.

The Ohio Supreme Court is still deciding on whether or not to try Anderson in the upcoming months.

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