Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019

In Re A.W., A Minor Child, Case no. 2018-1182
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

State of Ohio v. Robert Taylor, Case no. 2018-1243 and 2018-1315
Second District Court of Appeals (Montgomery County)

Disciplinary Counsel v. Beverly J. Corner, Case no. 2019-0215
Franklin County

State of Ohio v. Sheila A. McFarland, Case no. 2018-1116
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

Can Failure to Complete Youth Services Programming Lead to Adult Prison Sentence?

In Re A.W., A Minor Child, Case no. 2018-1182
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

ISSUE: Can the adult portion of a serious youthful offender specification sentence be invoked for failure to complete youth services’ programming if the offender was not given notice that failure to comply would trigger the adult sentence?

In August 2013, a juvenile identified in court records as A.W. was 17 years old when he engaged with a 13-year-old identified as A.A. through social media. The two met at a local festival where A.W. led A.A. into a wooded area. They had sex. A.A. didn’t tell her mother that night that she had been sexually assaulted but divulged the information to a friend at church the next morning. She then reported the incident to the police and went to a local hospital to be examined by a nurse. She didn’t tell the police she had been texting with A.W. and didn’t give police his contact information.

Nearly six months later, in April 2014, prosecutors alleged that A.W. committed acts that would be considered rape, kidnapping, and gross sexual imposition if committed by an adult. A.W. failed to appear at a hearing, and it was more than a year later, in May 2015, before he was arrested and appeared in court. He again failed to appear in court and was arrested again in May 2016.

A.W. appeared for a probable cause hearing in September 2016 in the juvenile division of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. He was now 20 years old. A week later, he entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and appeared at a juvenile admissions hearing, where he agreed to plead guilty to one count of rape with a serious youthful offender specification (SYO) in exchange for the case remaining in juvenile court and the rest of the charges being dismissed. The SYO is a blend of a juvenile sanction and adult sentence, which allows the court to impose the adult prison sentence on an offender for violations that occur while the offender is under the supervision of juvenile authorities. The agreement also called for the prosecutors to drop their request to bind over A.W. to adult court, with the expectation that A.W. would be committed the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS).

Dispute Arises from Court’s Orders
At the admission hearing in September, the juvenile court judge stated to A.W.: “[T]he only way you will go to adult court, young man, is if you act out so badly at ODYS that they cannot handle you. Meaning, that you continually fight; you continually create delinquent acts.”

At an October 2017 disposition hearing, the judge committed A.W. to ODYS for seven months, when he would turn 21 years old. The court suspended the three-year adult prison sentence that the SYO carried. At the hearing, the juvenile judge stated the court wanted “sex offender treatment put in place by ODYS,” but the court’s journal entry didn’t reflect that A.W. was “ordered” to participate in treatment. The judge noted A.W. had prior accusations of sex offenses and stated: “You have three sex offenses. So does that mean that you’re just a predator? Does that mean you’re a stupid kid? What is it that makes you continually have sex offenses, and not just teenage stuff?”

The trial court ordered A.W. to return 90 days later for a review, where A.W.’s parole officer reported that A.W. didn’t participate in any type of sex offender treatment and “continues to deny the accusations.” The trial court stated that A.W. must “either participate in the sex offender treatment” or go to prison. The court filed an order explicitly requiring A.W. to participate in sex offender treatment or else the adult portion of his sentence could be invoked.

In March 2017, the court learned that because of the ODYS protocol for sexual offender group programs, A.W. wasn’t receiving any sex offender treatment. The court ordered A.W. to complete as much treatment as he could before turning 21 in late May. The day before his 21st birthday, clinicians overseeing and evaluating A.W.’s treatment told the court that he completed about 10 to 15 percent of what is necessary for effective sexual offense treatment. Had he started when he first entered an ODYS facility, he would have completed 60 to 70 percent, they said. The clinicians testified that based on statements made to them by A.W., they concluded he needed more treatment.

A.W. told the judge he was complying with every order required of him and that he didn’t want to be sent to adult prison. Prosecutors asked the trial court to impose the adult portion of the sentence, arguing that A.W. didn’t comply with the court’s directives. The trial court, under R.C. 2152.13(D)(2), found that A.W. presented a substantial risk to the safety and security of the community by his failure to adhere to the treatment order, and he was sentenced to two years in adult prison.

A.W. appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s sentence. A.W. then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, stating several objections to the lower courts’ decisions. The Supreme Court agreed to hear his objection, known as a proposition of law, arguing his constitutional due process rights were violated when he didn’t receive notice that failure to complete sex offender treatment would invoke the adult sentence.

Lack of Notice Nullifies Adult Sentence, Offender States
A.W. argues the lack of notice in advance that sex offender treatment was required violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A.W. maintains his rights were violated because he wasn’t informed of the condition at his plea agreement hearing. He also argues he couldn’t fully complete treatment because of his short time in ODYS detention, and once advised of the treatment requirement, he fully complied.

A.W. notes that at the time of his plea, the judge stated the “only” way he could be sent to adult court was if “he acted out so badly at ODYS” they the could not handle him. He maintains this was an informal statement about the SYO language in R.C. 2152.14, which describes the misconduct that can trigger an adult sentence. He asserts that under the due process clause, specific notice of his conduct that could lead to invocation of his adult sentence must be presented, and he was told the only way it would be invoked was if he engaged in delinquent acts.

A.W. also maintains the trial court’s decision triggering the adult sentence was flawed because he wasn’t ordered to participate in treatment until three months after his commitment. After the court imposed it, two months passed before ODYS enrolled A.W. in a treatment program when there was fewer than three months left of his commitment. When told by the judge to complete as much treatment as he could, A.W. argues he complied. Because A.W. did exactly what he was ordered to do, the court’s decision to invoke the adult sentence was arbitrary and violates his due process rights, he concludes.

Over the objections of the Cuyahoga County prosecutors, A.W. also argues the Court could rule in his favor by noting the lower courts didn’t follow R.C. 2152.14(A)(2). The law allows the adult sentence to be triggered by “further misconduct” of the offender. The juvenile court cited failure to participate in the sex offender treatment as “further misconduct,” but A.W. argues he didn’t commit any further wrongdoing beyond the original charge. Failure to complete court-ordered treatment is not “further misconduct” because it isn’t a criminal offense or an act that creates a substantial risk of safety, which is the only basis in the law for instituting the adult sentence, he argues.

Juvenile Adequately Warned, Prosecutors Argue
The prosecutors argue that A.W.’s complaint of a failure to notify him of required sex offender treatment at his plea hearing isn’t required, and he was made fully aware that it was a requirement at his sentencing. The prosecutors note that the judge, speaking to A.W.’s family, stated toward the end of the hearing: “Mom, grandma, what I’m going to put in the journal entry is that he be placed at Paint Creek so he can do what we call sex offender treatment. I know you don’t want to believe this about your baby, but we’re looking at three cases that are all sexually based. So somewhere along the line he has not learned what’s appropriate.”

The judge also warned A.W. at the hearing that he would brought back to court in 90 days and asked, “Are you getting your education?” and “Are you participating in group therapies?” When the judge learned at the hearing that A.W. wasn’t participating in sex offender treatment, the court placed the order for it in the entry. At a third hearing in May 2018, clinicians reported that A.W. was “superficially engaged in his treatment.” Ultimately, the trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that A.W. engaged in conduct that created a substantial risk to safety by failing to undergo sexual offender treatment.

The prosecutors assert that A.W. has failed to cite any case in which a court has held that a juvenile is entitled at a plea hearing to a list of actions or inactions that would result in the invocation of the adult sentence, and that the trial judge made clear that if he didn’t follow the orders, an adult sentence could be imposed. At the sentencing, the judge was clear with A.W. that he must participate in group therapies, so his due process rights weren’t violated, the prosecutors conclude.

The prosecutors also object to A.W.’s argument that the Supreme Court could rule that the lower courts didn’t follow R.C. 2152.14(A)(2). They note the Court didn’t accept that argument when A.W. appealed the case. However, the prosecutors maintain the failure to complete treatment is a further act of misconduct. They cite the Ninth District Court of Appeals 2018 In re D.J. decision where the appeals court held that failure to complete sex offender treatment is sufficient evidence that a juvenile is engaged in conduct that creates a substantial risk to the safety of the community.

Friend-of-the-Court Brief Submitted
An amicus curiae brief supporting the A.W.’s position has been submitted jointly by the Juvenile Law Center, the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, and National Juvenile Defender Center.

Dan Trevas

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing A.W., a minor child, from the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office: Cullen Sweeney, 216.443.7583

Representing the State of Ohio from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office: Anthony Miranda, 216.443.7800

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Must Court State Reason Why It Finds Offender Able to Pay Court-Appointed Attorney Fee?

State of Ohio v. Robert Taylor, Case Nos. 2018-1243 and 2018-1315
Second District Court of Appeals (Montgomery County)

ISSUE: Prior to ordering a defendant to pay court-appointed counsel fees, must a trial court make an explicit finding that the defendant has, or reasonably may be expected to have, the means to pay some or all of the fee?

In August 2016, Robert Taylor was indicted on one count of raping a minor and one count of disseminating material that is harmful to juveniles. He negotiated a plea bargain and pled guilty in 2017 to one count of kidnapping and one count of gross sexual imposition in exchange for an agreed sentence of up to five years of community control, designation as a Tier II sex offender, and having no contact with the victim.

Prior to sentencing, the trial court was provided with a presentence investigation report (PSI), which indicated Taylor received $683 per month in Social Security disability benefits. During the sentencing hearing, the trial court stated it read the PSI carefully and in addition to the agreed-upon terms, the court imposed $1,138 in court costs, a $250 supervision fee, and $130 in court-appointed counsel fees.

Taylor appealed the financial components of his sentence to the Second District Court of Appeals. The Second District ruled that when imposing court-appointed counsel fees under R.C. 2941.51(D), the trial court had to make an explicit finding that Taylor, has or reasonably could be expected to have, the means to pay some of the costs of his legal representation, and had to notify Taylor of the imposition of the fee at sentencing.

The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court and also notified the Second District that its opinion was in conflict with a ruling from the Twelfth District Court of Appeals. The Second District agreed and certified the conflict to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of Taylor’s sentence and to consider the conflict among the appellate courts.

Court Can Infer Defendant’s Ability to Pay, Prosecutor Argues
The prosecutor argues the Second District added requirements for the trial court that aren’t in state law. The provision of R.C. 2941.51(D) in dispute states: “The fees and expenses approved by the court under this section shall not be taxed as part of the costs and shall be paid by the county. However, if the person represented has, or reasonably may be expected to have, the means to meet some part of the cost of the services rendered to the person, the person shall pay the county an amount that the person reasonably can be expected to pay.”

The prosecutor maintains the law doesn’t require the trial court to make an “explicit finding” that the offender has the means to pay all or part of an appointed-counsel fee. While the finding need not be explicit, the record still must support the finding, the office maintains. The trial court stated it reviewed Taylor’s PSI carefully and it contained information about Taylor’s age, work history, education, and the benefits he received. After reading the report, the trial court properly notified Taylor at the sentencing hearing that it was charging him $130 in counsel fees.

“There is enough evidence to support that the trial court complied with the requirements of R.C. 2941.51(D),” the prosecutor’s brief states.

The prosecutor also points to the case in conflict — the Twelfth District’s 2009 State v. Christman decision. In Christman, the appeals court was asked to consider whether the trial court followed the requirements of R.C. 2929.15(B)(5). That law requires the trial court to consider the offender’s present and future ability to pay a fine before the court imposes a financial sanction as part of a sentence. The trial court in Christman examined the offender’s PSI and levied the fine without expressly making an “affirmative determination” that the offender could pay. The Twelfth District affirmed the trial court, ruling that considering a PSI with the offender’s age, health, education, and work history was enough to comply with the law.

The prosecutor maintains that R.C. 2941.51(D) and R.C. 2929.15(B)(5) are similarly worded and the trial court’s review of Taylor’s PSI was sufficient to determine if he had the means to pay all or some of his court costs.

Requirement to State Reason for Imposing Counsel Costs Justified, Offender Argues
The Second District was within its authority to determine that the trial court needed to make an explicit finding that he was able to pay the counsel costs before imposing it on him, Taylor argues.

Taylor notes that while the law states that if an offender has the means to pay counsel fees, the court can order it, the law doesn’t state “who makes the determination” that a defendant can pay the fee. Because the law is ambiguous, it’s proper for the appeals court to interpret how the law should be executed, and its decision to require a trial court make an explicit finding is permitted, he concludes.

Taylor argues the situation in Christman isn’t similar to his and while the Twelfth District used the words “affirmative determination,” that has the same meaning as the Second District’s “explicit finding.” The trial court in Christman reviewed documents and testimony about the offender’s age, family circumstances, physical health, finances, education, prior convictions, and employment history. The trial court also observed that the offender was able-bodied and capable of working. With all the information, the trial court concluded that the offender could pay.

Taylor counters that practically none of that information was considered in his case. The trial court only learned that Taylor was 54 years old, had an 11th grade education, a criminal history, and received as his sole income Social Security disability benefits. What the trial court did in Taylor’s case wouldn’t have met the “affirmative determination” standard the Twelfth District imposed in Christman, Taylor asserts, and is further proof that the trial court needed to make a plain and clear statement of the reasons that led the court to believe he would be able to pay the counsel fee before imposing it.

Dan Trevas

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket (2018-1243 and 2018-1315).

Representing the State of Ohio from the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office: Sarah Hutnik, 937.225.4117

Representing Robert Taylor: Marshall Lachman, 937.743.9443

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Attorney Faces Further Suspension Because of Actions While Suspended

Disciplinary Counsel v. Beverly J. Corner, Case No. 2019-0215
Franklin County

The Ohio Supreme Court suspended Columbus attorney Beverly J. Corner in February 2016. The Board of Professional Conduct recommends that Corner be sanctioned again for false statements made during a disciplinary investigation into a real estate matter she handled while suspended.

In December 2017, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a four-count complaint alleging that Corner violated several rules governing attorney conduct while under suspension. However, the board dismissed three charges that dealt with Corner’s activities during that time – specifically, statements she made in her application for reinstatement to practice law, work she did for an attorney, and assistance she gave her stepmother in a custody matter.

For the misconduct related to the real estate transaction, the board recommends a one-year suspension, fully stayed, with conditions. The disciplinary counsel objects to the stayed suspension and to the dismissal of one of the counts. The office argues for an actual suspension.

Attorney Misstates CLE Hours in Reinstatement Application
As part of Corner’s February 2016 suspension, she was required to take a certain number of continuing legal education (CLE) courses before she could request to be reinstated to the practice of law. In a August 2017 reinstatement application to the Supreme Court, Corner stated that she had complied with the education requirements. However, she had completed only a fraction of the hours the Court had ordered.

The board panel that conducted Corner’s disciplinary hearing concluded that the attorney didn’t knowingly make false statements to the Court and her “application errors were a result of negligence, sloppiness, carelessness, and inattention.” The board dismissed the allegation.

During Suspension, Corner Works with Attorney, Assists Stepmother
Before Corner’s February 2016 suspension, her stepmother asked her to assist in the purchase of a house from Joe McDaniels. During the process, it was discovered that McDaniels’ deceased wife’s name needed to be removed from the property deed before the purchase could occur. In the midst of working on the transfer, Corner was suspended from practicing law. At a minimum, while suspended, Corner obtained and filed documents with public offices and paid related fees, the board’s report notes.

In November 2016, the disciplinary counsel received an unsigned grievance believed to be from McDaniels, alleging that Corner was still practicing law. The grievance included documents related to the property sale. When the disciplinary counsel’s office contacted Corner, she denied paying the filing fees at the recorder’s office and the probate court. She said she had been hired by an “entity” to file documents and do notary work and didn’t share that the “entity” was her stepmother.

The disciplinary counsel determined in March 2017 that the grievance wasn’t from McDaniels. The panel believed the office should have tried to contact the grievant to determine whether the complaint was valid. The board determined, though, that Corner violated two attorney conduct rules prohibiting false statements to disciplinary authorities and knowingly failing to respond to disciplinary inquiries.

Also after her suspension, Corner worked for an attorney friend for a year beginning in March 2016. The friend didn’t register Corner’s employment with the Supreme Court, and Corner didn’t ensure that the friend had contacted the Court. These steps were both requirements of Corner’s suspension. In dismissing the count, though, the board stated that the registration obligation rests with the hiring attorney and that Corner had no direct contact with clients.

The board also dismissed a count involving the help Corner provided to her stepmother with a custody matter.

Board Rejects Need for Actual Suspension
When the board considers a sanction to recommend to the Court, it reviews aggravating circumstances that could increase the penalty and mitigating factors that could lead to a lesser sanction. The board stated that Corner has prior discipline and she hasn’t acknowledged her misconduct related to the real estate transaction. The board also concluded that she had no dishonest or selfish motive.

Pointing out that Corner is still under suspension from her first suspension, the board’s report notes that she has been suspended now for more than three years.

“[W]e feel this case has caused her to serve a longer suspension than originally dictated by her first suspension, and as such she has been punished for this case,” the report states.

The board recommends a one-year suspension, to begin when she is reinstated from her first suspension. The suspension will be stayed if she commits no further misconduct and passes the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination.

Disciplinary Counsel Raises Concerns about Board’s Conclusions
The disciplinary counsel objects to the board’s dismissal of the misconduct charge related to Corner’s reporting requirements while she was suspended and asks the Court to reconsider that charge. The Court’s suspension order stated that before working with an attorney, Corner must verify that the attorney complies with specific registration requirements, and Corner must not handle client funds or property and must refrain from client contact.

During the disciplinary process, Corner admitted that neither she nor the attorney for whom she worked took the steps required by the Court. She acknowledged that she violated the Court’s order multiple times, the office notes. Corner testified that she didn’t know who had to verify the relationship, didn’t know where to obtain the registration documentation, and was working as a “glorified secretary” for the attorney.

“[Corner] cannot be excused from following a direct order of this court or any other court because she ‘didn't know,’ particularly when she failed to make any reasonable inquiry to determine her obligations,” the office’s objections state. “[Corner’s] knowing failure to comply with a court order violates Prof.Cond.R. 3.4(c).”

Disciplinary Counsel Also Argues for Actual Suspension
The disciplinary counsel also maintains that Corner’s other misconduct alone calls for an actual suspension. The office describes the board’s rationale for a stayed suspension as “seriously flawed,” setting “a dangerous precedent for future disciplinary cases.”

The office notes it is required to review every grievance received regardless of whether the grievance is signed or unsigned, such as the one in this matter. When the board concludes that an attorney’s lies are “understandable,” it’s “tantamount to giving respondents carte blanche permission to either refuse to cooperate or to provide false and misleading information during the course of a disciplinary investigation simply because they believe the allegations are meritless,” the office states.

The disciplinary counsel adds that Corner’s first suspension is still ongoing primarily because of her own choices, including not applying for reinstatement as soon as she could, not completing the Court-mandated CLE courses necessary for her reinstatement, and her subsequent misconduct. The office recommends a two-year suspension with one year stayed with conditions.

Attorney Maintains Rule Doesn’t Apply to Her Actions
Rule 3.4(c) of the Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct states, “A lawyer shall not knowingly disobey an obligation under the rules of a tribunal.” Corner asserts that the rule applies to a lawyer representing a client during pretrial, trial, or ongoing litigation or when a lawyer participates as a party or a witness. In her view, the rule doesn’t apply to her conduct during her current suspension.

She asks the Court to the adopt the board’s conclusions and proposed sanction.

Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing the Office of Disciplinary Counsel: Joseph Caligiuri, 614.461.0256

Representing Beverly J. Corner: Philip King, 614.610.4545

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Was Evidence Enough to Convict Euclid Woman of Conspiracy in Drug-Related Murder?

State of Ohio v. Sheila A. McFarland, Case No. 2018-1116
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

ISSUE: Are a criminal defendant’s constitutional rights violated when the defendant is found guilty based on insufficient evidence?

Robert Williams lived in a senior community with his girlfriend, Korri Henderson. In September 2015, narcotics detectives in the Euclid Police Department conducted “controlled buys” of drugs from Williams in parking lots near where he lived. The detectives obtained a search warrant for his and Henderson’s apartment, where they found crack cocaine.

After Williams and Henderson were arrested, they agreed to become confidential informants to help police track down their drug supplier, Eddie Brownlee. Police set up three drug buys. During the first buy, Brownlee and his girlfriend, Sheila McFarland, visited Williams’ and Henderson’s apartment. The drug transaction took place inside the apartment while McFarland waited outside. At the second buy, law enforcement was uncertain who was with Brownlee. For the third buy, Williams and Henderson called Brownlee, but met McFarland and purchased the drugs from her. Police arrested Brownlee and McFarland that day.

Alleged Drug Supplier Makes Multiple Calls from Jail
While Brownlee was held in jail on charges, he made a number of calls to McFarland’s cellphone and his own cellphone, which McFarland possessed. In one call, Brownlee told McFarland and friend Ryan Motley that he thought Williams was an informant. McFarland had Motley help her sell drugs to raise money to post Brownlee’s bond.

At one point, McFarland called Henderson from Brownlee’s cellphone and left a message, calling Williams and Henderson “snitches.”

Informant Shot and Killed
On Nov. 14, 2015, Motley and two other men went into the building where Williams and Henderson lived and waited for Williams. When he came out of his apartment, Motley ran up to him and shot him once, killing him.

Motley, the two other men, Brownlee, and McFarland were indicted for murder and conspiracy, among other counts and firearms specifications.

At McFarland’s trial, Henderson testified that McFarland and Brownlee contacted her and Williams the night before the murder, and Brownlee told them he was coming for them and they were going “to see their graves.” Motley testified that Brownlee told him during the phone calls from jail to “handle this” and to “get Rob.” Once out of jail, Brownlee told Motley to “go rough the dude up, beat him up,” referring to Williams, and Brownlee offered money to do this, Motley said. Motley denied that anyone asked him to kill Williams.

Jury Convicts McFarland
In February 2017, the jury found McFarland guilty on all counts and specifications. The trial court sentenced her to life without parole for aggravated murder plus three years. (Motley pled guilty in his murder trial, and the judge sentenced him to 18 years to life.)

McFarland appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court’s decision except for an issue regarding the merger of certain offenses. She appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

Conspiracy to Murder Not Proven, Woman Contends
McFarland argues that the evidence doesn’t support her conviction for conspiracy. The grand jury’s conspiracy count against McFarland alleged that she:

  • did solicit Ryan Motley for the murder of Robert Williams; and/or
  • did provide Ryan Motley with a firearm and/or assist Ryan Motley in procuring a firearm; and/or
  • did threaten Robert Williams and/or Korri Henderson via a telecommunications system.

McFarland maintains that she didn’t solicit Motley to kill Williams and that Brownlee suggested only that Motley rough him up and cause physical harm. Nor did she help Motley obtain a gun, she states. When Brownlee was in jail, Motley went to Brownlee’s hotel room to remove incriminating evidence and he took a gun, which he later used to shoot Williams. McFarland states that she didn’t assist Motley in getting the gun and only heard later that Motley had retrieved the gun.

In addition, she argues, while she said in the phone message left for Henderson that she thought Henderson and Williams were snitches, she never threatened them. Brownlee made the threatening calls, she indicates.

She notes that any alleged conspiracy to deal drugs is part of a separate case. But the evidence doesn’t support her committing overt acts that promoted or facilitated Williams’ murder – the necessary requirement for a conspiracy conviction in this case, she contends.

Substantial Evidence Shows Conduct Aided in Murder, State Argues
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office notes that the jury concluded the evidence was sufficient to convict McFarland on all counts, including conspiracy and aggravated murder.

McFarland is responsible for her conduct that set in motion a series of events leading to the murder, the prosecutor argues. The office maintains that she facilitated the phone conversations with Brownlee and Motley; she bailed Brownlee out of jail with the awareness that he wanted to “handle” the situation with Williams; she shared in the opinion that Williams should be harmed for informing law enforcement on them; she was present when Brownlee and Motley talked about harming Williams; she knew before the murder that Motley had retrieved the gun; and she, Brownlee, Motley, and the other men met at the hotel room after the murder.

Far from an innocent bystander who was present or merely associated with Brownlee and the others, McFarland “clearly aided and abetted” Motley and Brownlee in committing these crimes, the prosecutor argues. The office explains that McFarland didn’t have to express an intention to kill Williams to be liable for his death. Her overt acts furthered the conspiracy to kill Williams and supported her conviction for conspiracy, the prosecutor concludes.

Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Sheila A. McFarland from the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office: Jeffrey Gamso, 216.443.3669

Representing the State of Ohio from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office: Daniel Van, 216.443.7800

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These informal previews are prepared by the Supreme Court's Office of Public Information to provide the news media and other interested persons with a brief overview of the legal issues and arguments advanced by the parties in upcoming cases scheduled for oral argument. The previews are not part of the case record, and are not considered by the Court during its deliberations.

Parties interested in receiving additional information are encouraged to review the case file available in the Supreme Court Clerk's Office (614.387.9530), or to contact counsel of record.