Charles H. Rittgers speaks with the media after grand jury refuses to indict Sparks for murder
A Warren County grand jury declined to indict Timothy Sparks after the death of his spouse in March, 2015. Represented by Charles H. Rittgers, the grand jury did not find the requisite intent for Sparks to kill his wife, an important element of murder.
Sparks, 58, called 911 from his Mason home after his wife, Susan, suffered a shotgun wound. He explained to police that he was trying to wrestle the shotgun away from his wife when it discharged, fatally wounding her. The gun is normally not loaded - the shells are stored in a different part of the house - so Sparks did not believe it was capable of firing while wrestling it away from his wife.
Mr. Sparks is the only living witness to the accident, so evidence about the firearm and his wife's battle with depression were crucial in supporting his explanation of her death.
Although Sparks has lived with undue negative publicity since March, he can now grieve his wife without pending murder charges against him. Warren County Prosecutors will not bring additional charges unless new evidence surfaces. While the jury's decision is a giant relief to Mr. Sparks and his family, it is also an important outcome for anyone who will ever stand accused of a crime in Ohio.
Grand Jury Indictment vs. Criminal Trial
In indictment proceedings, the grand jury decides whether an indictment should be brought against the accused. This differs from a criminal trial, where the jury decides whether the accused is guilty.
Jurors rely on evidence to reach their decisions in both indictment proceedings and criminal trials. However, the standard of proof is remarkably different.
You probably are aware of the standard of proof required in a criminal trial: Beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard because so much is at stake. While there is still plenty at stake in an indictment proceeding, there is a much lower standard of proof because it does not ultimately determine whether the accused is guilty. The grand jury will be asked to determine whether there is probable cause to indict.
When applying this to the Sparks murder case, there was not sufficient evidence against Mr. Sparks for the grand jury to indict him, let alone successfully try him for murder. Ohio's criminal justice system worked as intended, and everyone involved can now focus on trying to heal after this tragic accident.
If you are facing indictment, do not take it lightly. Each step of the criminal process is crucial for determining whether you are guilty or innocent. By winning his indictment proceeding, Mr. Sparks has avoided extreme anguish and expense - even if he would have prevailed in a criminal trial.
Rittgers & Rittgers has decades of experience representing people accused of crimes - including cases under a regional and national spotlight. To learn more, visit our Representative Criminal Defense Cases page.