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State v. Barnes

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull

November 6, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JONATHAN M. BARNES, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         Criminal Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2016 CR 00486. Judgment: Affirmed.

          Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County Prosecutor, Ashleigh Musick, Assistant Prosecutor, and Charles L Morrow, Assistant Prosecutor, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          David L. Engler, Engler Law Firm, (For Defendant-Appellant).

          OPINION

          DIANE V. GRENDELL, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Jonathan M. Barnes, appeals his sentence for Trafficking in Heroin in the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas. The issue to be determined in this case is whether a trial court violates a defendant's right to due process by commenting on the drug epidemic and drug deaths when sentencing him for Trafficking. For the following reasons, the judgment of the lower court is affirmed.

         {¶2} On September 27, 2016, Barnes was indicted by the Trumbull County Grand Jury on one count of Trafficking in Heroin, a felony of the first degree, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2) and (C)(6)(f), and one count of Possession of Heroin, a felony of the first degree, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A) and (C)(6)(e). Both counts had a firearm specification pursuant to R.C. 2941.141, and a forfeiture specification, as provided for in R.C. 2941.1417 and R.C. 2981.02 and .04.

         {¶3} A Finding on Guilty Plea to the Amended-Indictment was filed on March 10, 2017. Barnes pled guilty to one count of Trafficking in Heroin, as charged in the Indictment, as well as the accompanying specifications. The State agreed to dismiss the remaining count. The court accepted the plea and entered a finding of guilt.

         {¶4} A sentencing hearing was held on April 3, 2017. Barnes apologized and accepted responsibility for his actions. The State recommended a five-year prison sentence. The court noted Barnes had no prior felony convictions and stated that "the reason you're not getting the top of the line prison time is because your record is relatively minimal."

         {¶5} The court asked Barnes if he knew what the "number one killer of people is today, " to which Barnes responded "heroin." The court replied: "Yes. What were you doing?, " to which Barnes responded, "selling heroin." The court stated:

The epidemic * * * [has] been around for a long time and every day I look in the obituary and I see people that are too young to die, and it says they died suddenly at their home, which means they OD'd. I see more of those than I do shootings, die of old age. You understand what you did?

         {¶6} The court sentenced Barnes to a term of five years in prison for Trafficking in Heroin and one year for the gun specification, for a total term of six years. An Entry on Sentence was filed on April 12, 2017, memorializing the sentence and stating that the court had considered the purposes and principles of felony sentencing in R.C. 2929.11 and the factors in R.C. 2929.12, as well as the record, oral statements, and presentence investigation report.

         {¶7} Barnes timely appeals and raises the following assignment of error:

         {¶8} "Appellant, Jonathan M. Barnes, assigns as error that the sentencing judge erred when he made statements during the sentencing hearing that rendered the sentencing hearing fundamentally unfair."

         {¶9} The standard of review for felony sentences is provided by R.C. 2953.08(G)(2). "The court hearing an appeal [of a felony sentence] shall review the record, including the findings underlying the sentence or modification given by the sentencing court." R.C. 2953.08(G)(2). "Applying the plain language of R.C. 2953.08(G)(2), * * * an appellate court may vacate or modify a felony sentence on appeal only if it determines by clear and convincing evidence that the record does not support the trial court's findings under relevant statutes ...


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