State v. J.R., 110521

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Citation2022 Ohio 1664
PartiesSTATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. J.R., Defendant-Appellant.
Docket Number110521
Decision Date19 May 2022


STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,

J.R., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 110521

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

May 19, 2022

Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-20-652417-A

Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jeffrey Schnatter and Samantha Sohl, Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, for appellee.

Paul W. Flowers, Co., L.P A., Louis E. Grube and Melissa A Ghrist, for appellant.



{¶ 1} Defendant-appellant J.R. appeals her convictions after she was bound over to the General Division of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas the "General Division") and pled guilty to multiple counts in connection with an


armed burglary. J.R. contends that the General Division lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the case because (1) the attorney who represented her during the juvenile-court proceedings was under a registration suspension at the time of the representation and she was, therefore, denied her right to assistance of counsel in violation of the United States and Ohio Constitutions and (2) the juvenile court abused its discretion in ordering J.R. transferred to the General Division pursuant to the discretionary bindover provisions in R.C. 2152.10 and 2152.12. J.R. also contends that the juvenile court violated her constitutional right to confront and cross-examine her accusers by admitting hearsay evidence at the amenability hearing and that her indefinite sentence, imposed under the Reagan Tokes Law, is unconstitutional.

{¶ 2} For the reasons that follow, we find that J.R. was denied her constitutional right to the assistance of counsel during the juvenile bindover proceedings. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment, vacate J.R.'s convictions, vacate the juvenile court's transfer order and remand the case to the juvenile court for further proceedings.

Factual Background and Procedural History

Juvenile Court Proceedings

{¶ 3} On February 27, 2020, the state filed a seven-count delinquency complaint in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division (Cuyahoga J.C. No. DL20102542), against J.R., alleging that she had committed acts that would constitute the following crimes if she were an adult: one count of


aggravated murder, one count of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of murder, two counts of felonious assault and one count of attempted murder. Each of the counts also included one- and three-year firearm specifications. The charges related to J.R.'s alleged participation in an armed burglary on December 22, 2019 that resulted in the shooting death of Kevin King and serious injury to Floyd Morgan. J.R. and her friend, S.B., who knew the victims, allegedly "scoped out" King's house, located on Auburndale Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio for a potential burglary. Shortly after the girls left King's house, three males with firearms burst into the house and began shooting. J.R. and S.B. allegedly assisted the males in gaining entry to the house by opening the door for them. J.R. was 15 at the time of the incident. S.B. was 16.

{¶ 4} On March 4, 2020, the state filed a notice of mandatory bindover and a motion for an order to relinquish jurisdiction for the purpose of criminal prosecution pursuant to R.C. 2152.10(B) ("motion for discretionary bindover") on the charges alleged in the complaint. J.R. retained attorney Robert Chester Brooks II to represent her during the juvenile court proceedings. At J.R.'s arraignment held later that day, the state withdrew the notice of mandatory bindover because J.R. did not meet the statutory requirements for mandatory bindover. Brooks entered denials, on J.R.'s behalf, "as to the entirety of the complaint" and the motion for discretionary bindover.

{¶5} The juvenile court scheduled a probable cause hearing. J.R.'s mother was not present at the hearing. Brooks stated that because he had "made several


attempts to contact [J.R.'s mother] and was unable to get an answer," a guardian ad litem had been appointed for J.R. "to share with some of the decision making relative to this." On July 13, 2020, J.R. waived her probable cause hearing and stipulated to a finding of probable cause. Brooks stated that he had "conferred with the [g]uardian ad [l]item and informed him that our strategy was to stipulate as to probable cause." After conducting a colloquy explaining what it meant to stipulate to probable cause and confirming that J.R. had an opportunity to discuss the issue with her counsel and her mother, understood the consequences of waiving the probable cause hearing and was doing so "knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily," the juvenile court accepted the stipulation, found that there was probable cause to believe that J.R. had committed each of the acts charged and referred J.R. for "a full investigation into [her] social history, education, family situation, and any other factor on whether the child is amenable to juvenile rehabilitation," including a psychological evaluation by the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Diagnostic Clinic.

Amenability Hearing

{¶ 6} On August 13, 2020, the juvenile court conducted an amenability hearing to determine whether J.R.'s case should be transferred to the General Division for prosecution as an adult. The parties stipulated to the admissibility of a psychological evaluation report prepared by Dr. Lynn Williams, a forensic psychologist with the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Diagnostic Clinic. Cleveland Police Detective Charles McNeeley, Jr., Harrison Brill (J.R.'s probation officer) and Kimberly King (the mother of the deceased victim) testified on behalf of the state at


the amenability hearing. Over Brooks' objection, the state also read a statement from the surviving victim, Morgan, into the record at the hearing. J.R. presented no witnesses at the hearing.

{¶ 7} Following the hearing, the juvenile court concluded that "the weight of the factors that are in favor of transfer outweigh the other factors" and granted the state's motion for discretionary transfer. In its August 17, 2020 journal entry, the juvenile court set forth its findings as follows:

The court finds after a full investigation including a mental examination of said child made by a duly qualified person, and after full consideration of the child's prior juvenile record, family environment, school record, efforts previously made to treat and rehabilitate the child, including prior commitments to the Department of Youth Services, the nature and severity of the offense herein, the age, physical, and mental condition of the victim as effected by the matter herein, and other matters of evidence, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child herein is not amenable to care or rehabilitation within the juvenile system.
The court further finds that the safety of the community may require that the child be subject to adult sanctions.
The court considered the relevant factors in favor of transfer pursuant to R.C. 2152.12(D) and makes the following findings:
1. The victim suffered physical or psychological harm, or serious economic harm.
2.The child's relationship with the victim facilitated the act charged.
3.At the time of the act charged, the child was awaiting a community control sanction, or was on parole for a prior delinquent child adjudication or conviction.
4. The results of any previous juvenile sanctions and programs indicate that rehabilitation of the child will not occur in the juvenile system.
5. The child is emotionally, physically, or psychologically mature enough for the transfer.
6. There is not sufficient time to rehabilitate the child within the juvenile system.
The Court considered the relevant factors against transfer pursuant to R.C. 21152.12(E) and makes the following findings:
1. The child was not the principal actor in the act charged, or, at the time of the act charged, the child was under the negative influence or coercion of another person.

{¶ 8} On August 25, 2020, the juvenile court transferred the case to the General Division for further proceedings.

Proceedings in the General Division[1]

{¶ 9} On September 3, 2020, a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury indicted J.R. and two codefendants, S.B. and Maurice Chesney, Jr. (one of the three alleged shooters), on 11 counts: two counts of aggravated murder, one count of murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated burglary, three counts of felonious assault and one count of attempted murder. All of the counts included one- and three-year firearm specifications. J.R. initially pled not guilty to all charges.

{¶ 10} On March 31, 2021, the parties reached a plea agreement. J.R. pled guilty to four first-degree felonies: an amended count of involuntary manslaughter with one- and three-year firearm specifications (Count 1), an amended count of


aggravated robbery (deleting the firearm specifications) (Count 4), an amended count of aggravated burglary (deleting the firearm specifications) (Count 6) and an amended count of attempted murder (deleting the firearm specifications) (Count 9). In exchange for her guilty pleas, the parties agreed that J.R. would receive a recommended "base sentence of anywhere from eight to 18 years" if she "cooperates and testifies against any and all co-conspirators" and that the remaining counts against her would be nolled.

{¶ 11} J.R. entered guilty pleas to the amended counts as agreed. After conducting a plea colloquy, [2] the trial court found that J.R. had entered her guilty pleas "knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently," accepted her guilty pleas and dismissed the remaining counts.

{¶ 12} On April 21, 2021, the trial court sentenced J.R. to an aggregate minimum prison term of 13...

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