James Mammone III appeared in court Wednesday for a routine hearing in his capital murder case, but there was no discussion of the letter believed to have been written by him to The Repository.

Prospective jurors called in the capital murder trial of James Mammone III will be asked their views on divorce and child custody, in addition to their opinions on the death penalty and exposure to pretrial publicity.

Mammone, 35, of Canton appeared Wednesday in Stark County Common Pleas Court. He is charged with aggravated murder and other crimes for the June 8 deaths of his two children, James IV and Macy, and former mother-in-law, Margaret Eakin.

If convicted, he faces the possibility of a death sentence. Mammone’s trial is now scheduled for January.

Wednesday’s hearing came a day after a jailhouse letter believed to have been written by Mammone was published by The Repository.

The letter wasn’t mentioned during the hearing. Judge John G. Haas ruled on several routine defense motions and briefly mentioned the topic of juror questions.

“Every case is unique as to which issues are raised and that is one of the issues in this case,” said Stark County Public Defender Tammi Johnson on the issue of juror questions.

Police have said Mammone confessed to the killings, saying he wanted to hurt his ex-wife, Marcia Eakin, following their recent divorce.

The jailhouse letter calls divorce a tool of Satan and states that Mammone killed his children to spare them from the aftermath of divorce.

At the end of the hearing, the judge ordered Mammone to have no contact of any kind with his ex-wife and former father-in-law, James Eakin.

Neither the defense, nor Assistant Stark County Prosecutor Dennis Barr would comment on what prompted the judge to issue the no contact order.

A day earlier, Haas signed an order that no one is to meet or communicate with Mammone without the presence of his attorneys. The order affirms a request made by the defense at the beginning of the case.

Defense attorney Derek Lowry said the orders don’t curtail Mammone from sending letters or making phone calls to individuals other than his ex-wife and former father-in-law.

Johnson and Lowry wouldn’t discuss whether they’d talked to Mammone about the letter published in the newspaper.

When asked whether the defense is considering an insanity plea, Lowry said it’s an option in any case, but wouldn’t comment on whether the strategy will be used in this case.

Last week, the court gave the defense $5,000 to hire a psychologist. Psychologists are commonly hired in death-penalty cases even when an insanity plea isn’t pursued.

Canton Repository