Lawyer for man accused of killing Westerville officers asks to ban uniformed police, protests

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The attorney for a man accused of shooting and killing two Westerville police officers in 2018 is making the request to keep protests and uniformed officers away from the courtroom during the trial.

The issue came up Friday during a pre-trial involving Quentin Smith, who is charged with the shooting deaths of Westerville Police Officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering. In February of 2018, Morelli Joering were shot and killed when responding to a 911 hang-up call.

Smith's attorney filed a series of motions including one that would prevent protests on courthouse grounds as a way to prevent jury intimidation.

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Judge Richard Frye said those grounds could be regulated.

"We can regulate courthouse grounds if it's owned by the county and if it's something that would inhibit a trial inside the building," he said.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien says these spots shouldn't include public areas like sidewalks.

"Certainly someone who is doing something on an open public sidewalk or at the entry of the courthouse, I wouldn't want that included," he said.

Judge Frye stood his ground.

"Well, I do want that included in this sense — my jury room looks out west on to Front Street and I don't want people out there marching up and down with signs," he said.

10TV spoke to retired Justice Paul Pfeifer, who said banning public protests was a controversial stand.

"The further you get away from the courtroom, the more problematic it becomes. This is a pretty big reach," she said.

The defense also made a motion regarding uniformed officers at the trial.

When the defense made a motion to prevent uniformed police in the courtroom, Judge Frye said he didn't want his courtroom looking like "an FOP meeting."

"We're not going to fill the room with blue uniforms that we feel it's going to inhibit a fair trial," he said.

The President of the Fraternal Order of Police said uniformed officers have every right to be there.

"If he thinks this is a public trial, I think we have every reason to be there like everyone else in the public. My suggestion would be for the defense attorney to focus on the despicable acts his client committed and let us worry about supporting family members who lost loved ones," said FOP President Keith Ferrell.

The judge has yet to rule on the motions.