Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Kenneth Adams et al. v. Patricia Harris, tax commissioner of Ohio, Case No. 2023-0733
Ohio Board of Tax Appeals

Jennifer Ackman, administrator of the estate of Janet M. Sollman v. Mercy Health West Hospital LLC et al., Case No. 2023-0975
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

Janet Hild, administrator of the estate of Scott Boldman v. Samaritan Health Partners et al., Case No. 2023-1076
Second District Court of Appeals (Montgomery County)

State of Ohio v. James Echols, Case No. 2023-1024
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

Was Agricultural Property Tax for Woodlands Properly Calculated?

Kenneth Adams et al. v. Patricia Harris, tax commissioner of Ohio, Case No. 2023-0733
Ohio Board of Tax Appeals


  • Did the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals act unreasonably by approving the tax commissioner’s cost of clearing woodlands when determining agricultural use values?
  • Can the Board of Tax Appeals consider appeals from landowners who did not participate in hearings before tax values were set and who later appealed as a group rather than individually?

This is the second time the Supreme Court of Ohio will consider a challenge by landowners disputing current agricultural use values (CAUVs) for woodlands, established by the state tax commissioner. The landowners contend that the values set for their woodlands are too high. In 2017, the Supreme Court remanded the dispute to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) to consider whether the landowners have been paying the appropriate amount of tax.

Commissioner Sets Tax Rates for Agricultural Land
In 1974, Ohioans amended the state constitution to allow land exclusively devoted to agriculture to be taxed based on its agricultural value use rather than its fair market value. Each year, to enable county
auditors to determine the value of farmland for tax purposes, the state tax commissioner adopts a table, assigning per-acre values to different types of farmland. Agricultural land also includes wooded land that is part of or next to cropland. The commissioner makes adjustments to the value of woodlands for tax purposes. The value is computed based on the income the woodlands would produce if converted to cropland, even if the owner doesn’t intend to clear the land.

For the value calculation of woodlands, the land-clearing costs are deducted from the cropland value.

Before 2015, the tax commissioner used a $500 per acre deduction for land clearing. An agriculture advisory committee to the tax commissioner argued that it costs more than that to clear the land and the deduction was far too low. The committee presented the commissioner with estimates that the current state average for woodland clearing costs is $3,350 per acre. The Ohio Department of Taxation conducted research on the costs but couldn’t produce a conclusive figure. The department agreed that $500 was too low. For the 2015 tables, the commissioner used $1,000 per acre for land clearing.

A group of landowners, including Kenneth Adams, contested the CAUV tables in 2015, arguing to the BTA that the commissioner’s $1,000 figure was too low and was imposed arbitrarily. The BTA dismissed the case in 2016, stating it didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The Supreme Court reversed the BTA’s decision in 2017 and sent the case back to the BTA to consider the merits.

The landowners submitted testimony and evidence at the BTA contesting the $1,000 clearing-cost deduction. The tax commissioner countered that the estimates for clearing costs were too varied statewide to definitively produce an average per acre cost. The commissioner argued that doubling the deduction from prior years was reasonable. The commissioner also sought to have the BTA dismiss the case, arguing the landowners didn’t take the necessary steps to bring an appeal.

The BTA affirmed the tax commissioner’s $1,000 per acre deduction. The landowners appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. The commissioner submitted a cross appeal, maintaining that the landowners had no standing to appeal.

Commissioner Failed to Research Costs, Landowners Assert
To develop the CAUV tables, the Ohio Administrative Code requires “careful attention be given to the many principles and techniques” of taxation, the landowners note. The group contends the commissioner didn’t use “careful attention” when developing the $1,000 clearing cost deduction and just relied on an arbitrary figure suggested by the department of taxation staff. The administrative code requires that the commissioner obtain information from such organizations as Ohio State University’s agricultural programs, federal and state agricultural agencies, state and federal natural resources agencies, and “other reliable sources.”

Among those providing input to the commissioner was its agriculture advisory committee. The landowners maintain that advisory committee members met with department staff and suggested an average cost for clearing. Various committee members representing forestry and farming interests submitted estimates based on receipts from some clearing jobs and estimates from service providers that clear land. The landowners assert that the committee never recommended a $1,000 cost deduction. Instead, the average cost suggested by committee members was $3,350 per acre.

The group argues that instead of using the estimates from committee members or gathering more information from experts, such as Ohio State, the commissioner simply concluded that $1,000 was reasonable. After several years of litigation, the landowners assert the commissioner has had ample time to study the issue and present an estimate based on actual research. By allowing the commissioner’s estimate to stand, the BTA has failed in its role to ensure an accurate deduction is applied, the group maintains. The landowners argue that the BTA abused its discretion by allowing the commissioner to establish a deduction without thorough research.

Clearing Costs Deduction Reasonable, Commissioner Asserts
The tax commissioner maintains that the BTA didn’t abuse its discretion when approving the CAUV tables. The commissioner explains that she considered information from the advisory committee and worked with the tax department to find cost estimates. The department’s research revealed a wide variety of estimates based on geographic locations, the nature of the land to be cleared, and other considerations. The commissioner asserts that 92% of woodlands are taxed at the minimum per acre amount when using the $1,000 clearing deduction. She maintains that the deduction is fair to all woodland owners.

The commissioner’s counterclaim argues that the landowners’ case should be dismissed for several reasons. First, the commissioner notes that to appeal the tables, the landowners had to follow the administrative process from the beginning by participating in developing the tax tables. The commissioner explains that draft tables are published, and public hearings are conducted before a final table is adopted. Only two of more than 30 individuals participating in the appeal by attending the hearings or providing comments. The commissioner argues she was entitled to know the landowners’ objections and consider their arguments before approving the tables. The landowners shouldn’t be able to wait until the appeals process to first raise their objections, the commissioner maintains.

Additionally, the commissioner argues that BTA appeals are designed for an individual taxpayer to appeal the tax commissioner's decision. State law doesn’t provide for a multiparty party appeal, and the commissioner asserts that, for that reason, the BTA doesn’t have jurisdiction to rule on the landowners’ case.

Friend-of-the-Court Brief Submitted
An amicus curiae brief supporting the landowners’ position was submitted by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

Dan Trevas

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

Representing Kenneth Adams et al.: Jack Van Kley,

Representing the Ohio tax commissioner from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office: Daniel Kim,

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Did Doctor Waive Claim That He Wasn’t Notified of Lawsuit When He Participated in Case?

Jennifer Ackman, administrator of the estate of Janet M. Sollman v. Mercy Health West Hospital LLC et al., Case No. 2023-0975
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

ISSUE: Does a defendant in a civil lawsuit waive the right to claim insufficient service of notice of the lawsuit if the defendant actively participates in the litigation?

In April 2019, Janet Sollman went to the emergency room at Mercy Health West Hospital in Cincinnati. Sollman exhibited signs of a stroke. Dr. Muhammad Riaz Ahmad was the treating physician. The next morning, Sollman was diagnosed with a stroke and taken by air to a different hospital. She suffered significant medical issues, was placed in hospice, and died in September 2019.

Jennifer Ackman, the administrator of Sollman’s estate, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court against Ahmad, his employer Hospitalist Medicine Physicians of Ohio, and Mercy Health West Hospital. In February 2020, a summons and a copy of the complaint were mailed to Ahmad using a hospital business address. The address was for the former Mercy Mt. Airy Hospital, which had been demolished in 2015. The clerk of courts received the certified mailed envelope indicating the address was vacant and that the post office couldn’t forward it. The clerk notified the parties on the docket that the complaint sent to Ahmad had been returned.

Ackman also served notice of the lawsuit to Hospitalist Medicine Physicians at its Columbus office. Hospitalist turned over the notice to its insurance company, and attorneys for the insurance company electronically filed a 23-paragraph answer to Ackman’s complaint. The answer included defenses to the lawsuit on behalf of Hospitalist and Ahmad. The answers included requests to dismiss the case for insufficiency of process because of issues with the wording of the complaint and insufficiency of service of process based on Ahmad not receiving a copy of the lawsuit.

The exchange of notices took place at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ackman’s attorneys indicated to the trial court that they never received notice from the clerk that their attempt to serve Ahmad failed. The attorneys took no other action to serve notice to him. A month later, an attorney representing Ahmad participated in the initial case management conference with the trial court. Attorneys for the parties worked together to set a schedule to proceed with the case.

In February 2021, a year after the case was filed, attorneys for Ackman and Ahmad jointly requested that the court amend the schedule. Ahmad’s attorney participated in two more case management conferences in 2021, and appeared at a February 2022 deposition of several nurses involved in treating Sollman.

In June 2022, more than two years after the case was filed, Ahmad asked the trial court for summary judgment, arguing that he wasn’t properly served with notice of the case and that the two-year statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim had passed. The trial court noted that Ahmad actively participated in the case. Still, under the Supreme Court of Ohio’s 2007 Gliozzo v. Univ. Urologists of Cleveland decision, a defendant doesn’t waive their right to be properly served by actively participating in the case, the trial court added. It dismissed the case.

Ackman appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s decision. Ackman appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

State Should Follow Federal Court Service Rule, Estate Argues
Because of the Gliozzo decision, the trial court and First District had no choice but to side with Ahmad, Ackman asserts. She urges the Supreme Court to overturn Gliozzo and adopt a different approach to lawsuit service issues. Ohio state courts should adopt an interpretation of the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure that is consistent with the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ interpretation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the estate asserts.

The federal rule for service is nearly identical to the Ohio Civil Rules 12(B)(4) and 12(B)(5), Ackman notes. Under both state and federal rules, a defendant can raise the defense that they weren’t sufficiently served with notice of the lawsuit even after the trial starts, Ackman explains. Under Gliozzo, active participation in the case does not constitute a waiver of the insufficient service defense, the estate notes. Ackman argues that this approach allows sophisticated parties to participate in the case, wait until the process moves past the statute of limitations, and then spring the defense of lack of notice on the unsuspecting parties. She maintains that this use of the rules is counter to the general notion that cases should be decided on the merits instead of on procedural issues.

Ahmad wasn’t harmed by the failed delivery of the case to his office, she notes. He couldn’t possibly argue he was unaware of the lawsuit, Ackman asserts. The purpose of the service requirement was to make Ahmad aware of the lawsuit, and he demonstrated his awareness through his attorney’s active participation in the case for more than two years, she notes.

The federal Sixth Circuit and other circuit courts take a different approach to nearly the same rule, Ackman explains. The federal court doesn’t allow a party to simply invoke the lack of service rule but makes them explain how the party was harmed by the lack of service. If the court determines that the defendant unjustly failed to raise the defense, it can be considered waived. The Sixth Circuit has considered that active participation in a case is a valid reason to waive the lack of service defense, especially when it is brought up in the late stages of the case, Ackman explains.

The estate also notes that other defenses under Civ.R.12(B) are waived when a party participates in the case, and the rule should be interpreted to apply to the lack of service defense.

No Justification for Court to Change Rule, Doctor Maintains
Ahmad notes that the Supreme Court has upheld Gliozzo in a recent case and maintains that the rule is clear and easy for parties to follow. The doctor charges that Ackman’s attorney made one failed attempt to send notice to a demolished building, never checked the docket to learn that the notice wasn’t delivered. and made no further attempts to provide notice. Under the civil rules, Ackman had a year after filing the lawsuit to give notice to Ahmad and could have accomplished service in many ways, including handing a copy to Ahmad’s attorney during one of the many interactions between the parties, the doctor asserts.

Ahmad argues that changing to an “active participation” standard is subjective and will lead to each court having to determine how much participation is enough before a defendant is considered to have actively participated. Such an interpretation would make a straightforward rule hard to follow, he adds.

Those unhappy with the Gliozzo decision have another way to change the process other than asking the Supreme Court to overrule its precedent, the doctor argues. In the First District’s opinion, one of the judges encouraged the Supreme Court’s Commission on Rules of Practice and Procedure to change the rule and make it more in line with the Sixth Circuit’s interpretation. Ahmad maintains the commission could propose a rule amendment. If a change is recommended, the Supreme Court could consider the rule change, publish the amendment for public comment, and file the proposal with the General Assembly. The doctor argues this is the appropriate way to change a rule, not by overturning the decision in this case.

Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Submitted
An amicus curiae brief supporting Ackman’s position was submitted by the Ohio Association for Justice. The Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys filed an amicus brief supporting Ahmed, his employer, and the hospital.

Parties Not Participating in Oral Arguments
The federal Medicare program was also named a defendant in the estate’s lawsuit. Medicare and Mercy Health West Hospital did not file a brief in the case and will not participate in oral arguments.

Dan Trevas

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

Representing Jennifer Ackman, administrator of the estate of Janet M. Sollman: Joseph Cesta,

Representing Mercy Health West Hospital et al.: Anne Marie Sferra,

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What Rules Must Jurors Follow When Deciding Medical Negligence Lawsuits?

Janet Hild, administrator of the estate of Scott Boldman v. Samaritan Health Partners et al., Case No. 2023-1076
Second District Court of Appeals (Montgomery County)


  • Does the “same-juror rule,” established in a 1991 Supreme Court of Ohio decision, apply to juries considering negligence and causation in medical negligence lawsuits?
  • What rule should be used for jurors in medical negligence cases to adhere to the Ohio Constitution’s requirement that the verdict must be based on a three-fourths concurrence of the jury?
  • To reverse a trial court if it guided the jury incorrectly, must the reviewing court find that the outcome of the case would have been different?

On Christmas Eve 2017, Scott Boldman went to a Good Samaritan Hospital facility in Dayton, complaining of symptoms indicating appendicitis. The 37-year-old was transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati for an emergency appendectomy. Nurse anesthetist Sandra Ward provided general anesthesia to Boldman under the supervision of Dr. Vincent Phillips.

After the surgery, Boldman was still in the operating room with the breathing tube in his throat when he awoke from anesthesia. He pulled out the tube and his heart stopped. A lack of oxygen allegedly caused severe brain damage. He was placed on life support for several days and died on Jan. 1, 2018.

Janet Hild, the administrator of Boldman’s estate, filed a civil lawsuit in December 2018 alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death. Hild sued Good Samaritan Hospital and related entities, Samaritan Health Partners and Premier Health Partners. Also named as defendants were Consolidated Anesthesiologists, Ward, and Phillips.

Questions for Jury Discussed in Court
A trial before an eight-person jury began in January 2022. The trial judge and the attorneys reviewed and discussed the proposed jury instructions and the formal questions the jury would need to answer in writing. These questions for the jury in the civil case are called interrogatories. The first proposed interrogatory would have the jurors note whether Ward was negligent in her care of Boldman. The second interrogatory would ask the jurors to explain how Ward was negligent. The third interrogatory would tell only the jurors who found Ward negligent to decide if her negligence was the “proximate cause” of Boldman’s injuries and death. Hild’s attorney was concerned that the third interrogatory was inaccurate. The attorney believed that Ohio law requires all jurors to participate in answering the causation question. The trial judge decided to “leave it alone” and accepted the interrogatories as presented.

The jury went to deliberate. Civil trials require a three-fourths majority vote on the issues, which was six jurors in this case. Six of the eight jurors found that Ward’s actions were negligent. Those six jurors agreed, though, that her conduct didn’t cause Boldman’s injuries and death. The two that didn’t find Ward negligent followed the court’s instructions and didn’t participate in deciding causation.

Hild appealed to the Second District Court of Appeals, which ruled that parties in a lawsuit have a constitutional right to have a full jury deliberate on each essential element of the legal claims. In this case, all eight jurors should have participated in deciding both elements – negligence and causation, the Second District concluded. It returned the case to the trial court to determine causation; the liability of Ward’s supervisors and the hospital system; and damages. Negligence was already established and wouldn’t be part of the retrial, the appeals court stated.

Good Samaritan and Consolidated Anesthesiologists appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to review the issues.

Medical Groups Contend That Only Jurors Who Find Negligence Vote on Causation
Good Samaritan and Consolidated Anesthesiologists argue that the 1991 Supreme Court of Ohio ruling in O’Connell v. Chesapeake & O.R. Co. supports their position on this issue. In O’Connell, the driver of a motor vehicle collided at night with a parked, flatbed train car blocking the road. The jury determined how negligent the driver and the railroad each were. The case involved deciding negligence and causation. The Supreme Court ruled that in comparative negligence cases, three-fourths of the jury must agree as to both negligence and proximate causation, and only those jurors who agree on the negligence and causation questions are permitted to decide how to divide responsibility.

This approach is described as the “same-juror rule.” Good Samaritan and Consolidated Anesthesiologists maintain that the same-juror rule should also apply to all medical negligence cases. Any other approach defies logic, the medical groups assert in separate briefs that make similar arguments. The groups contend that a juror who finds a defendant didn’t act negligently shouldn’t be permitted to deliberate about causation. Otherwise, the juror would impose liability on a defendant when the juror thinks the defendant didn’t act negligently, the groups state. The question of causation depends on, and can’t be unwound from, the question of negligence, the groups assert.

They also point to the Ohio Constitution, which states, “The right of trial by jury shall be inviolate, except that, in civil cases, . . . [there may be the] rendering of a verdict by the concurrence of not less than three-fourths of the jury.” State rules for civil cases reiterate this requirement. The medical groups argue:

“If a juror who found no negligence somehow votes for proximate cause, this Court risks the probability of something other than a three-fourth concurrence on all essential issues. … The burden on the plaintiff is to convince six of eight jurors to rule in his or her favor on all essential elements, not to cobble together, in piecemeal fashion, six different jurors on each of these essential elements.”

The medical groups also stress that even if they are wrong, it didn’t prejudice Hild. The outcome of the case wouldn’t have been different because the six jurors who found Ward negligent were the same who said that no causation was established, the groups conclude.

Estate Administrator Counters That All Jurors Must Vote on Each Element
Hild rejects the medical groups’ expansion of O’Connell. The ruling acknowledged the interdependence of negligence with dividing the responsibility for the negligent conduct, Hild notes. Her brief states that juries in comparative negligence cases, like O’Connell, deal with “two sides of the same coin” – “If a juror doesn’t agree to the negligence of both [parties], that juror cannot be expected to legitimately apportion damages between two negligent parties.” This interdependence led to the same-juror rule, Hild notes.

However, in other tort cases, negligence and causation are “separate coins,” working as independent elements, Hild explains. These cases, which include medical negligence lawsuits, use the “any-majority rule.” The rule requires full jury participation in deciding each of the key elements. As long as a majority of jurors finds for each element, liability has been established, even if different jurors agreed with each element. Hild adds that the Court in O’Connell stated outright that it adopted the same-juror rule only for cases involving comparative negligence.

Hild contends that the any-majority rule protects the constitutional right to have a full jury consider legal claims by permitting all jurors to participate in determining each step. It is incorrect to analyze these legal issues based on whether the outcome of the case would have changed if different jury interrogatories were used, she maintains. That prejudice analysis isn’t the legal standard when a substantive and constitutional right is involved, she notes. Also, the case must be retried from the point of determining causation because two of the eight jurors were left out of that determination – a violation of her constitutional right to have the full jury participate in deciding each element, Hild concludes.

Kathleen Maloney

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

Representing Samaritan Health Partners et al.: John Haviland,

Representing Consolidated Anesthesiologists Inc., et al.: John Welch,

Representing Janet Hild, administrator of the estate of Scott Boldman: Patrick Adkinson,

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What Determines Whether Evidence of Witness Intimidation Can Be Heard at Trial?

State of Ohio v. James Echols, Case No. 2023-1024
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

ISSUE: If evidence of witness intimidation conveys a guilty mindset, must the evidence be evaluated under Ohio court rules prohibiting consideration of most information that shows a defendant committed “other crimes, wrongs, or acts”?

On the outskirts of Cincinnati in Colerain Township, Cheyanne Willis held a party in July 2017 at her home. Afterward, a group of adults and children gathered in the living room to watch a movie. At about 11:20 p.m., two men entered the house through the front door and began shooting. Autumn Garrett, one of the adults in the room, was killed. Five other adults and three children were wounded by the gunfire.

The Colerain Township police investigated the shootings for months, eventually interviewing Roshawn Bishop, who had been romantically involved with Willis. He gave various stories during multiple police interviews and eventually identified individuals he said were involved in the shootings.

In December 2018, Bishop along with James Echols and Michael Sanon were indicted on charges related to the shooting. The indictments alleged aggravated murder, murder, attempted murder, aggravated burglary, and felonious assault. Echols and Sanon were tried together in early 2022. Bishop agreed to testify for the state.

Victim of Shooting and Person Who Named Shooters Testify
Willis testified that she knew Bishop and a man named Robert Howard from the mobile phone store where she worked. She said the men were drug dealers who visited frequently to buy cellphones for their activities.

Willis said she and Bishop, who was married, became romantically involved in April 2017. During their relationship, she loaned Bishop $10,000 on the condition that he repay it in 30 days. Bishop split the money with Howard. When the loan wasn’t repaid on time, Willis asked repeatedly about the money.

Bishop testified that Howard didn’t want to repay the loan and had suggested shooting Willis. Bishop said he asked a cousin who lived in Columbus to come to Cincinnati to help. His cousin brought Echols with him, and Sanon arrived soon after.

The group gathered at Bishop’s house. Bishop said it was decided that his cousin would drive to Willis’ house, and Echols and Sanon would shoot her.

Man Testifying for State Says One Shooter Tried to Intimidate Him
Bishop also alleged that before the trial, Echols had been trying to prevent him from being a witness. Echols was accused of making a gesture like a gun toward Bishop in the county jail. Bishop said writing found on the wall in the jail called him a “rat” and stated there was a $30,000 price on his head. Echols’ nickname was written nearby on the wall. Jail personnel also reviewed a letter Echols wrote to a friend. The letter requested help in finding people to say he was elsewhere during the shootings. It also listed names and other identifying details about victims and witnesses, suggested that the recipient do what they could with the information, and threatened Bishop’s wife.

Echols had objected before trial to the court admitting these allegations of witness intimidation. He argued the court needed to first review whether the information could be allowed under state rules for evidence. Echols also requested a jury instruction that would limit how the evidence could be considered. The trial court overruled the requests.

The jury convicted Echols on most counts, and he was sentenced to prison for 41 years to life. Sanon was convicted on one count of attempted murder. Bishop entered a plea deal with an expected 2028 release from prison.

Echols appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, which upheld his convictions. The ruling also upheld the trial court decision on the witness intimidation evidence, although the judges had differing analyses for why. Echols appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which accepted the case.

Shooter Maintains That Witness Intimidation Evidence Can’t Be Admitted
Evidence of “other crimes, wrongs, or acts” isn’t admissible in court if used to show that the person accused of a crime has a tendency to behave in a certain way. This type of evidence is known as “other-acts” evidence. The rule is meant to prevent a person from being found guilty of a crime because the person acted in a similar way in the past. However, this type of evidence can be allowed in court if it reflects consciousness of guilt, or a guilty mind.

Echols asserts that when the state presented allegations that he threatened to harm witnesses, the jury might have been improperly led to believe that he was likely to have committed the charged crimes, including murder. He argues the evidence alleging witness intimidation was other-acts evidence, which shouldn’t have been presented to the jury.

Echols argues that even if the evidence were permissible, the Hamilton County prosecutor failed to establish any consciousness of guilt. The state didn’t prove that the writing on the jail wall was put there by him, instead of by any other jail inmate, Echols asserts. Nor did the state establish that if the letter had reached its intended recipient, the actions would have been carried out, he maintains.

He contends that other-acts evidence must be evaluated under a framework the Supreme Court of Ohio described in State v. Hartman (2020). Under Hartman, the trial court first must find that the evidence is relevant to the case and for the particular purpose the state is offering it. If the evidence is permissible, then the trial court must conduct a balancing test to determine whether the benefit of the evidence outweighs the risk of it being unfairly prejudicial to the defendant. In his case, Echols contends, the evidence was more prejudicial than probative and must be excluded.

He also argues that if the evidence were allowed, a jury instruction should have been given limiting how the jury could consider it. He notes that Hartman said jury instructions should be tailored to help jurors understand the prohibition on other-acts evidence being used to infer the defendant’s likelihood to commit a crime.

State Argues Witness Intimidation Evidence Reflected Guilt in Crimes
The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office counters that Echols is mixing up different types of evidence. Evidence of other acts is not the same as direct evidence of the crime alleged, the prosecutor maintains. Evidence of witness intimidation is a fact related to the charged offenses and proves in this case that Echols was one of the shooters at Willis’ house, the prosecutor argues. “The evidence is related directly to the conduct alleged in the indictment,” the prosecutor’s brief states. The prosecutor contends that witness intimidation evidence isn’t evaluated under the other-acts evidence rule or under Hartman because it’s not that type of evidence.

Also, evidence that shows a defendant’s consciousness of guilt is admissible in court, the prosecutor argues. When someone takes steps to conceal actions or avoid consequences of conduct, that reflects the person’s guilty mind, the prosecutor maintains. In the state’s view, the evidence in this case didn’t show that Echols intimidated witnesses because he was inclined to commit murder and the other crimes. The evidence instead established that the intimidation directly showed his guilt in the shootings, the prosecutor argues. 

Because the witness intimidation evidence isn’t other-acts evidence, but instead was evidence directly related to the crimes alleged, the jury needed no special instruction, 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 James Echols from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office: Craig Jaquith,

Representing the State of Ohio from the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office: Philip Cummings,

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