Jury declines death penalty option in Howland capital murder trial

Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice will have the ultimate say in sentencing

WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – After deliberating for over 10 hours to decide the fate of convicted killer Nasser Hamad, the jury declined the death penalty option in the Howland capital murder case.

The jury of 12 suggested two life sentences — one for 19-year-old Josh Haber and one for 20-year-old Josh Williams — with parole eligibility after 30 full years served.

Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice will have the ultimate say in sentencing. He’ll make his decision at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Because the jury didn’t recommend death, Judge Rice cannot impose a death sentence.

Prosecutors said they’re satisfied with the jury’s decision.

“They were 9 to 3 in favor of the death penalty but there were a number of jurors, obviously at least three, who were sympathetic to the fact that he had no criminal record and that there was some culpability on the victims in starting this and continuing with this fight and what ultimately led to the shooting,” said Assistant Trumbull County Prosecutor Chris Becker.

Hamad’s attorney, Geoffrey Ogelsby, said they’re grateful.

“Any time a person’s life is in jeopardy and the life is spared, we have to be jubilant.”

Jurors were sequestered overnight but it took them less than an hour Wednesday morning to reach a unanimous decision.

“I feel very, very sad. The justice system today did not work,” said Hamad’s brother, Mike Hamad.

Although Hamad’s family is relieved his life was spared, Mike said he’s still unhappy with the way the trial went.

“They made a mistake on the first verdict, that’s what it is…I hope their conscience, I hope they can sleep at night.”

Hamad was convicted last week of two counts of aggravated murder and six counts of attempted aggravated murder with firearm specifications. The jury deliberated less than two hours to decide his guilt.

Prosecutors reiterated on Tuesday that they believed the death penalty was appropriate in this case.

Becker took his last moments in front of the jury to remind them Hamad attempted to kill five people and was successful in taking the lives of two.

Hamad was convicted in the shooting deaths of Haber and Williams outside of his Route 46 home in February. Forty-three-year-old April Trent, 20-year-old Bryce Hendrickson, and 17-year-old John Shively were injured in the shooting. Hendrickson died later from unrelated causes.

“The state position is that it is not even close. It just isn’t and that leaves you no other choice under the law but to go back to the jury room and find the death sentence appropriate,” said Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Mike Burnett.

Hamad’s attorney told the jury this was their opportunity to show mercy. He also reminded jurors of testimony depicting Hamad as a good father, a hard worker, and that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Hamad has maintained he was acting in self-defense and the group that came to his house that day had been harassing him and making threats in an ongoing dispute on social media and among other family members.