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9th District: defendant’s speedy trial rights not violated in Lorain murder case

Legal News Reporter

Published: September 10, 2021

A defendant convicted of fatally shooting another male in Lorain alleged his speedy trial rights were violated.
The 9th District Court of Appeals disagreed, and recently affirmed Larry Brown’s convictions for murder, felonious assault and firearm specifications.
On July 14, 2016, Lorain police performed a safety check at a West 9th Street home after receiving a report that a man may have been shot there. The officers found the body of L.S., who had died from a single gunshot wound above his left clavicle.
L.S.’s brother, S.F., identified Brown as the shooter. Brown fled the state and was arrested in Baltimore after seeking medical attention for an unrelated injury.
Case summary shows the first pretrial conference was continued. The state moved to schedule a jury trial on Nov. 5, 2018. Some court forms were signed by Brown; others indicated through counsel that he waived his speedy-trial rights. The trial court set an initial trial date of March 20, 2019.
Five days before the trial date, defense counsel moved to continue, citing counsel’s need for an emergency medical procedure. The trial court granted the motion and Aug. 19, 2019, became the new trial date.
In the meantime, other pretrial conferences were conducted between counsel in the interim that referenced waiver of speedy trial. Two were signed Brown; a third indicated Brown waived his speedy trial rights through counsel.
On the date of trial, defense counsel moved to withdraw, and Brown read a letter to the trial court in which he requested new counsel. The trial was continued, and on Aug. 20, 2019, the trial court granted the motion to withdraw and appointed new counsel.
The trial was continued again to Jan. 27, 2020, at the defense’s request. However, on Sept. 12, 2019, the state asked the trial court to recuse from the case, arguing the trial court judge had ex parte contact with a potential witness. The trial court granted the motion.
On Oct. 15, 2019, the newly appointed defense counsel also moved to withdraw, citing his own significant health issues. The trial court granted the motion, appointed a third attorney to represent Brown, and moved the trial date to Jan. 21, 2020.
On Dec. 4, 2019, Brown filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, alleging his right to a speedy trial had been violated. The motion was handwritten and signed by Brown, but his appointed counsel cosigned the motion and the proof of service. The trial court denied the motion, concluding Brown had waived his speedy trial rights.
A jury found Brown guilty of all charges, and he was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
Ohio’s speedy trial statute, R.C. 2945.71, provides that an individual who has been charged with a felony must be brought to trial within 270 days of arrest.
Appellate Judge Lynne Callahan noted in her 3-0 opinion that when a written waiver fails to specify an expiration date, it constitutes an unlimited waiver.
“The foundation of Mr. Brown’s arguments is the assumption that he executed multiple speedy trial waivers that were each effective only until the next pretrial date,” Judge Callahan wrote. “This proposition is incorrect. On Oct. 7, 2016, Mr. Brown waived his speedy-trial rights in writing on a form journal entry to document pretrial proceedings. The waiver did not contain a specific time limitation. This court has considered the nature of waivers contained on this form on previous occasions, concluding that it operates not as a waiver from one court date to another, but as an unlimited waiver of speedy trial rights.
“Although Mr. Brown expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that he had not been present for all of the pretrial proceedings in his case, he did not demonstrate in support of his motion to dismiss that his unlimited waiver on that occasion was not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. Consequently, there is no evidence in the record from which this court could reach that conclusion. There is also no evidence from which this court could conclude that Mr. Brown formally objected to the delay and demanded a trial.”
Ninth District judges Jennifer Hensal and Thomas Teodosio concurred. The case is cited State v. Brown, 2021-Ohio-2540.