Pickaway County woman convicted of murder for hire gets a new trial

Tara Lambert (WCMH photo)

PICKAWAY CO., OH (WCMH) — A Central Ohio woman sentenced to seven years in prison in 2016 for a murder-for-hire is getting a new trial.

Tara Lambert, 33, spent a year and a half in the Ohio Reformatory for Woman, before the 4th District Court of Appeals overturned her conviction, and the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear it.

NBC4 was in the Pickaway County Court of Common Pleas when Lambert appeared for her second indictment.

She was convicted for a murder-for-hire, but that conviction overturned because of an omission in her first indictment. The Pickaway County Prosecutor Judy Wolford indicted her again on two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Murder.

Sam Shamansky is now her defense attorney. He asked the court to accept pleas of not guilty to both counts, and asked to continue bond for Lambert.

Judge P. Randall Knece granted that, but warned her about violating the bond.

“Yes your honor,” Lambert responded.

Court records show, on or about July 21- 28, 2015, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office investigators allege Lambert paid an undercover officer money to murder Kellie Cooke at a Circleville Kentucky Fried Chicken. Cooke is the mother of Lambert’s step-daughters. Lambert was arrested and charged a short time later.

Judges on the Appeals court wrote a decision as to why Lambert’s case was overturned. “The indictment is fatally flawed for failure to allege a substantial overt act, and in violation of appellant’s right to a grand jury.” The decision also states; “trial counsel’s failure to file a motion to dismiss indictment or raise objection to its fatal defect is ineffective counsel.”

“What happened was the prosecutor’s office failed to indict it properly and even more astoundingly her lawyer at the time failed to notice that defect,” said Shamansky.

NBC4 asked if an impartial jury can be found in a small community for a second trial.

“If we can’t find a fair jury we will consider a change of venue. If we feel we cannot get an impartial jury, that is what we will have to do,” Shamansky said.

Pickaway County Court records show Lambert is suing her attorney from her first trial.

Her new trial is expected to start April 23.

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