Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

State of Ohio v. Tysean Martin, Case No. 2021-0967
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

Willow Grove Ltd. v. Olmsted Township Board of Zoning Appeals et al., Case No. 2021-1087
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

State of Ohio v. Kristofer D. Garrett, Case No. 2019-1381
Franklin County Common Pleas Court

Did Appeals Court Properly Review Juvenile’s Probable Cause Hearing Related to Shooting?

State of Ohio v. Tysean Martin, Case No. 2021-0967
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

ISSUE: Must appeals courts consider the “manifest weight of the evidence” when reviewing a juvenile court’s probable-cause determination?

On July 8, 2018, police officers responded to reports of a large fight and gunfire at a park in Maple Heights. At the middle school near the park, they found 20-year-old Darnez Canion lying on the ground in the parking lot. Canion had been shot and died from his injuries.

Police reviewed surveillance footage, which showed a group of 15-20 people involved in the fight. A complaint was filed against Tysean Martin in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court alleging that the 16-year-old participated in the shootout.

Juvenile Court Considers Transfer of Case
The prosecutor requested Martin’s mandatory transfer from juvenile court to criminal court. Before a mandatory transfer can be made, juvenile courts first determine whether there is probable cause that the child committed the offenses. Martin’s hearing considered whether probable cause was shown that he committed involuntary manslaughter and aggravated riot, and illegally had a weapon. The manslaughter and riot offenses included firearm specifications.

At the hearing, a 15-year-old girl testified that she lost her necklace and headphones during a fight she and her girlfriends were involved in at the park earlier on July 8. A group, including her friends Martin and Damien Stewart, returned to the park to look for her personal items. The girl didn’t join them, but one friend who went called her using FaceTime. While watching the video stream, the teen saw a girl hand Canion a gun, Canion start shooting, and Stewart knock the gun out of his hand. The girl testified that she saw someone pick up that gun and shoot it. She recounted that she then saw Martin shoot a gun and heard him say that it had locked up. Martin and others ran from the scene. On cross-examination, the teen stated she wasn’t sure whether Martin’s gun actually fired.

The juvenile court concluded that probable cause was shown, and the case was transferred to criminal court. Martin pled guilty was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Martin appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which rejected his arguments. He appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to review whether the appeals courts should weigh the evidence when reviewing a juvenile court’s determination of probable cause.

Juvenile’s Brief Contends That Appeals Courts Must Weigh Evidence
Martin argues that appellate courts have a duty in appeals of this type to review whether a juvenile court’s judgment was sound. Nothing about youths or transfer hearings in juvenile courts prevents juveniles from challenging the evidence presented to support a transfer to criminal court, Martin maintains.

Quoting the state Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in In re A.J.S., Martin contends that juvenile courts act as a gatekeepers during transfer hearings by evaluating whether “sufficient credible evidence exists to warrant going forward with a prosecution” in criminal court. A.J.S. stated that deference is given to the trial court’s determinations about witness credibility, but the appellate court reviews whether the prosecutor presented sufficient evidence of probable cause. In Martin’s view, that approach permits appellate courts to consider the quality of the evidence and whether the state met its burden of proof to justify a juvenile’s transfer to criminal court. Otherwise, a juvenile is deprived of a meaningful review on appeal, he argues.

State Counters Appellate Court Review More Limited
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office maintains that a review of whether the “manifest weight of the evidence” supported Martin’s transfer to criminal court is improper. In a manifest weight review, an appeals court considers the entire record of a trial, weighs the evidence, assesses witness credibility, and determines whether the jury engaged in such a miscarriage of justice that a new trial must be ordered, the prosecutor asserts. However, the prosecutor contends, a juvenile court transfer hearing that determines whether probable cause is established is only a preliminary proceeding.

At these hearings, a juvenile court cannot act in the role that a factfinder, such as a jury, plays at a trial, the prosecutor argues. The state contends that an appeals court review of a juvenile court’s determination regarding probable cause must end once it is clear the state presented sufficient credible evidence of the required elements of the offenses. The prosecutor maintains this level of review aligns with the A.J.S. decision. Anything more is beyond the scope of an appeals court’s review of a transfer hearing, the prosecutor concludes.

Attorney General to Join Prosecutor for Oral Argument
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the Cuyahoga County prosecutor. The attorney general will participate in oral argument before the Court, sharing the 15 minutes allotted to the prosecutor.

Kathleen Maloney

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

Representing Tysean Martin from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office: Timothy Hackett, 614.466.539

Representing the State of Ohio from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office: Gregory Ochocki, 216.443.7800

Representing the Ohio Attorney General’s Office: Benjamin Flowers, 614.466.8980

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Was Housing Development Wrongfully Denied Zoning Permit for Lack of Parking?

Willow Grove Ltd. v. Olmsted Township Board of Zoning Appeals et al., Case No. 2021-1087
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)


  • When a zoning code contains tables of requirements, with headings describing the requirements for specific land uses, are the headings substantive, and must they be read as part of the code?
  • If the principal buildings and structures comply with a zoning certificate application, but include accessory buildings that don’t comply with zoning regulations, must the zoning certificate be granted for buildings that do comply?

Willow Grove Ltd. planned to develop a 30-acre lot in Cuyahoga County’s Olmsted Township into a condominium development with 202 attached single-family homes. The plan included a small community swimming pool and community center for the use of the development residents and their guests. Olmsted Township has adopted zoning resolutions (OTZR) to govern commercial and residential construction in the township.

Willow Grove first applied in 2006 for a zoning certificate for the development. At the time, the land was zoned to permit attached single-family homes. The township approved the certificate; however, because of the economic downturn, Willow Grove didn’t move forward with the plan. The zoning certificate lapsed.

In May 2012, the township rezoned the area where Willow Grove had planned its development, and as of July 2013, the construction of single-family attached townhomes would no longer be permitted. A month before the rezoning took effect, Willow Grove submitted a zoning certificate application that was nearly identical to the 2006 plan. It also challenged the legality of the township’s rezoning, which was ultimately affirmed by the Eighth District Court of Appeals in 2015.

Inclusion of Pool, Community Center Leads to Protracted Dispute
In 2015, the township zoning inspector denied the application, finding that the pool and community center failed to comply with the OTZR because of a lack of required additional off-street parking spaces. Willow Grove appealed to the township’s board of zoning appeals, which affirmed the inspector’s denial. Willow Grove then appealed the decision to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Willow Grove argued that the OTZR contains both text and tables, and maintains that virtually every local zoning code in Ohio includes tables as part of its regulations. In the OTZR, there is a two-column table. One table is under the heading “Principal Building or Use.” The second column heading is “Minimum Spaces Required.”

Willow Grove maintained the “principal use” of the development was the 202 townhomes. It classified the swimming pool and community center as “accessory uses.”

The company maintained that under the OTZR table regarding residential uses, the minimum parking space required two spaces per dwelling unit. Under the table, there is no requirement for additional spaces for “accessory uses” such as the swimming pool and community center. Willow Grove asserted the OTZR didn’t require any additional parking spaces.

The township pointed to two other areas of the OTZR tables. One listed “Commercial Entertainment/Recreation Uses,” which includes the category “Swimming Pools, Public and Private (not associated with residences).” That category requires additional parking spaces based on the size of the pool area. Another section was listed as “Library, Museum, Art Gallery, Community Center or similar public or semi-public building.” It also included additional parking based on the size.

In 2019, the trial court rejected Willow Grove’s argument that the swimming pool was “associated with residences” and the company’s claim that the community center wasn’t public or semi-public. The trial court ruled the accessory uses could be denied because of a lack of parking. The trial court directed Olmsted Township to issue a zoning certificate for the rest of the complex.

Olmsted Township and its zoning board appealed the decision to the Eighth District Court of Appeals. Because the pool and community center violated the regulation, the Eighth District ruled the entire project wasn’t in compliance. It reversed the trial court’s directive to issue the zoning certificate for the townhomes.

Willow Grove appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to hear the case.

Headings Control Zoning Requirements, Developer Asserts
Willow Grove notes that it must contest the 2013 application rather than file an amended plan with the township because it would be denied under the current zoning code. The developer argues the trial court and appeals court disregarded state law by confusing the interpretation of titles of sections of law with the interpretation of the titles in tables used in laws. The Eighth District ruled that similar to interpreting laws, headings aren’t substantial and are used only to resolve ambiguity. Willow Grove argues that the heading “Principal Building or Use” isn’t a title, but instead is an essential component of the table and must be interpreted as substantial.

By examining the OTZR, it is clear that the principal use of the buildings in the plan are for single-family residences, the developer argues. The code contains no requirement for additional parking spaces for accessory uses such as pools and community centers, Willow Grove asserts. However, if the Court disagrees, and doesn’t find the accessory uses fall under the residential use portion of the table, the Court should closely examine the headings that were used by the township to reject the pool and community center, Willow Grove suggests.

The section for pools excludes parking requirements for pools “associated with residences.” The developer states the purpose for the regulation is for commercial pools that serve the public, not ones designed for residences of a specific development. The same logic applies to the community center, Willow Grove maintains. The code section for community centers requires parking for those with pubic or semi-public use, the company notes, and that is different than a center to be used exclusively by a housing subdivision’s residents and guests.

Willow Grove alternatively argues that if the Court agrees the parking requirements apply, then the zoning application should be approved for only the townhomes, which complied with the plan. The developer argues that denying a zoning certificate based on a noncompliant accessory use could lead to denials of comprehensive plans for something as inconsequential as a nonconforming sign.

Development Lacks Sufficient Parking, Township Asserts
The township maintains the developer is seeking extreme interpretations of the zoning code to circumvent the parking requirements for a swimming pool and community center. The township notes the 30-acre development has eight parking spaces for the pool and community center. The township maintains the OTZR requires certain parking for “any building or structure,” regardless of its labeling as principal, accessory, or conditional, and the development didn’t include sufficient parking.

The township notes the code’s exemption of pools associated with residences are designed for backyard swimming pools on the premises of an individual’s residence. Willow Grove’s community swimming pool isn’t associated with a single townhome’s backyard, and the code applies, the township argues. The community center is open to guests of the residences who will likely drive to it, and even some residents of the development are expected to drive to community center to park, the township asserts. The community center fits the definition of a community center in the OTZR and requires more parking that Willow Grove proposed, it concludes.

The township also explains that under state law, the Eighth District correctly denied the entire application. Under R.C. 519.17, a local government can’t issue a zoning certificate unless the “proposed buildings or structures fully comply with the zoning regulations then in effect.” Because Willow Grove sought to approve the entire project under one zoning application, then all of its proposed uses must comply, the township asserts. Because it didn’t, the plan was properly rejected, the township concludes.

Friend-of-the-Court Brief Submitted
An amicus curiae brief supporting the township’s position was submitted by the Ohio Township Association.

Dan Trevas

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

Representing Willow Grove Ltd.: Jordan Berns, 216.831.8838

Representing Olmsted Township Board of Zoning Appeals et al.: David Riepenhoff, 614.221.1216

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Handling of Insanity Defense Addressed in Death Penalty Appeal

State of Ohio v. Kristofer D. Garrett, Case No. 2019-1381
Franklin County Common Pleas Court

In January 2018, Kristofer Garrett went to the Columbus home of his ex-girlfriend and their 4-year-old daughter, and stabbed and killed them. Garrett was sentenced to death for his child’s murder and to life in prison without parole in the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Nicole Duckson. Because the death penalty was imposed, Garrett has the right to an appeal heard by the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Pair Meets and Moves in Together
Duckson, 29, was visiting her father in Columbus when she met Garrett, 19, at a tattoo parlor. They became romantically involved. Soon after, Duckson moved to Columbus and lived with Garrett in his apartment. About six months later, Duckson became pregnant. The couple were no longer dating when their daughter was born in September 2013. Duckson and their daughter lived with Duckson’s father.

Garrett and Duckson had difficulties co-parenting. Garrett went for lengthy periods without seeing his daughter because of inappropriate demands he said Duckson put on visits. Garrett periodically paid child support.

Mother and Colleague Coordinate Ride to Work
On Jan. 5, 2018, Duckson’s father left for work before 6 a.m. Duckson was awake and getting ready for work. She texted with a coworker, making plans to pick her up, take her daughter to daycare, and head to work. When Duckson was late and didn’t respond to texts, her coworker called Duckson’s father and went to the house. At the house, the coworker saw Duckson’s car idling in the driveway, then noticed blood and saw the feet of Duckson and the child. She called 911.

Duckson and her daughter were pronounced dead at the scene. It was later determined they both died from dozens of sharp force injuries.

Police officers interrogated Garrett that evening, and he was arrested. He eventually confessed to the murders. He said that about 6 a.m. on Jan. 8, he finished working at his job and went home. He saw an email stating he could be jailed for not paying his child support obligations. He had already lost his driver’s license for falling behind on child support. Angry, he drank a few shots of liquor and drove to Duckson’s house. He waited for her to come outside, and he attacked her, then their daughter.

Defendant Changes Pleas, Arguing Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
Garrett was indicted on charges of aggravated murder and tampering with evidence. He pled not guilty.

In December 2018, the Franklin County Common Pleas Court allowed Garrett to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury found Garrett guilty on all counts, and the trial moved to the mitigation phase. The jury recommended death for Garrett on the charges related to killing his daughter and life in prison without parole for Duckson’s murder. The trial court agreed, imposing a death sentence, life in prison without parole, and 36 months on the tampering count.

In his direct appeal to the Supreme Court, Garrett makes 16 legal arguments.

Court Thwarted Defense Strategy After Jury Rejected Insanity Defense, Garrett Asserts
Garrett’s brief explains that the defense strategy during the guilt-determination phase of the trial was to remove the death penalty as a possible sentence by showing that Garrett was insane during the murders. Given the jury’s guilty verdict on all counts, Garrett’s lawyers decided to approach the trial’s mitigation phase differently, the brief argues. The lawyers determined that presenting evidence of mental disease as a mitigating factor during the trial’s second phase wouldn’t serve their client. They believed it would confuse the jury to ask them to consider other mental illnesses when the jurors had rejected the insanity defense presented during the guilt phase. Garrett’s brief argues the trial court, however, improperly ordered the jury to examine mental illness as a mitigating factor.

Defense Presented Evidence of Mental Illness During Mitigation Phase, State Counters
The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office maintains that the defense lawyers brought up Garrett’s mental health issues during the mitigation phase. And the defense specifically asked that the psychologist’s testimony and report on Garrett’s sanity be admitted during the mitigation phase as evidence for the jury to consider, the state notes. The state’s brief argues that because the defense raised mental illness as a mitigating factor, it couldn’t prevent the trial court from giving the jury an instruction about the mitigating factor. Also, Garrett’s lawyers didn’t offer a legal justification for not giving the jury instruction, the brief contends.

Garrett Makes Claims About Jury Selection, Courtroom Closure, and Lack of Convictions
Among Garrett’s other arguments:

  • The state improperly used its peremptory challenges to excuse a biracial man and an African-American man as jurors, resulting in an all-white jury for Garrett, who is Black.
  • The trial court’s order to not allow anyone under the age of 18 during the trial wasn’t requested by either side and was too broad of a restriction.
  • The trial court failed to inform the jury that Garrett’s absence of any prior criminal convictions or juvenile delinquency adjudications was a mitigating factor.

State Argues Assertions Don’t Have Merit
The prosecutor rejects Garrett’s claims:

  • The prosecutor gave plausible, race-neutral reasons for excusing the two prospective jurors. One stated that he wasn’t a fan of law enforcement and that a family member had been killed. The other excused juror indicated he had a prior conviction involving serious physical harm and had an incarcerated relative. The defense didn’t present facts to support the challenges as race based, and the court determined the prosecutor’s reasons for excusal weren’t discriminatory.
  • The defense waived its claim about the prohibition of children in the courtroom, everyone except children were permitted to attend the trial, and the court stated it would reconsider the order if asked to do so. The defense raised no concerns during the trial.
  • Even without a jury instruction on Garrett’s lack of a criminal history, the jury heard that information in the defense’s opening and closing statements and from several witnesses.

Kathleen Maloney

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

Representing Kristofer D. Garrett: Kort Gatterdam, 614.365.4100

Representing the State of Ohio from the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office: Steven Taylor, 614.525.3555

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