AKRON, Ohio — Jury selection began Monday for the man accused of killing nine people in separate arson fires in Akron.
Stanley Ford could face the death penalty if convicted of multiple aggravated murder charges. Prosecutors have said the 62-year-old Ford killed a couple in 2016 and seven people, including five children, in 2017 over neighborhood disputes.
Summit County Judge Christine Croce declared a mistrial in June 2020 at the request of Ford's attorneys, who cited concerns about Ford getting a fair trial during the coronavirus pandemic. The trial is expected to begin Aug. 30.
Ford is charged with setting two fires on Fultz Street back in May of 2017. He lived on Hillcrest Street, which intersects with Fultz. Ford was also reportedly connected to a vehicle fire on nearby Russell Ave. which was ruled arson in January of 2017.
At the time of the original trial, there was a lot of attention focused on whether Ford was competent enough to stand trial.
"I don't think I need to go forward with no competency hearing," Ford told Judge Christine Croce in November of 2019. "I didn't commit a crime to deal with all these different psychologists and psychiatrists. It's not making any sense...The state can't even produce evidence."
After the judge offered an explanation about why the competency hearing was necessary, Ford refused to see a doctor while continuing to maintain his innocence.
“I’m not seeing a doctor," Ford declared. "I’m not signing anymore papers. Just give me a jury trial. Come on, let’s go with it. I’m not going to see a doctor. I’m not seeing no more doctors. I’m done. I’m done with it. It’s not making any sense. I didn’t commit a crime. The state knows that all the evidence that is gathered that I didn’t commit a crime."
Judge Croce continued explaining why the competency hearing is necessary.
“We’re not talking about the evidence, and we’re not getting to that portion of the trial until we get to this about whether I’m convinced that as you sit here today -- or sit in a month for a trial -- you can assist in your defense and that you have the capability of understanding the process,” Judge Croce said.
Judge Croce said the only way to ensure that happens is that he continues working with the doctor to get an “adequate second opinion” regarding his competency.
Then, the following exchange took place:
Ford: “I’m done with that. I’m not seeing no more doctors. Let’s go on with the trial in January.”
Judge Croce: “Well, we’re going forward with the hearing on the 19th, and I’m going to make the determination whether you’re competent to stand trial.”
Ford: “That’s not fair, your Honor.”
Judge Croce: “No, that’s my job, Mr. Ford.”
Ford: “You’re supposed to be fair and just.”
Judge Croce: “I am!”
Ford: “No, you’re not. You won’t even demand the prosecutor to show the evidence.”
Judge Croce: “They don’t have to show the evidence until we have to get to trial. Your attorneys have the evidence. … You may not like the evidence. You may not like what the evidence shows. You can continue to profess your innocence all day long. That’s fine. There is a process. I am in charge of that process. The process is, on the 19th of December, we’re going forward with a competency hearing. Whether you cooperate with the doctor or not is going to put a lot of emphasis on my final decision as to my decision on your competency. I can only implore you – for the last time – to cooperate.”
You can watch the entire exchange in the player below.
Later on that day, Judge Croce once again explained why a competency hearing was necessary.
“With regards to my responsibility in overseeing this trial, it’s my duty to ensure that Mr. Ford is competent to stand trial," Judge Croce said. "I am going to continue to do what I need to do to make that determination based on all of the available information I have before me.”
Ford originally faced 22 counts of aggravated murder, two counts of attempted aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated arson, one count of cruelty to animals, one count of arson and one count of aggravated menacing. If he's convicted, Ford faces the death penalty. Throughout the original trial and the hearings that led up to it, Ford maintained his innocence.