Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Clermont
APPEAL FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No.
Vincent Faris, Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney, Nicholas
A. Horton, for plaintiff-appellee.
Woliver, for defendant-appellant.
1} Defendant-appellant, Michael G. Watkins Jr.,
appeals the bindover decision of the Clermont County Court of
Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, and his conviction and
sentence in the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas,
2} On May 9, 2016, 16-year-old Watkins executed a
plan to rob two victims by having two minor codefendants lure
them to a Clermont County apartment. Upon arriving at the
apartment, Watkins and his codefendants threatened the
victims with a firearm, then assaulted and robbed them.
Following the completion of the robbery plan, the victims
left the apartment and contacted the police who responded to
the apartment and arrested Watkins. On May 10, 2016, the
state filed a delinquency complaint alleging charges for
felony aggravated robbery and misdemeanor assault. On May 30,
2016, while at a juvenile detention facility for the
delinquency charges, Watkins assaulted a corrections officer.
In turn, the state charged Watkins with felonious assault on
a correctional facility employee.
3} The state moved for a mandatory bindover for
criminal prosecution of the aggravated robbery charges and
for a discretionary bindover for criminal prosecution of the
assault charges. On June 8, 2016, the juvenile court held a
probable cause hearing on the felony aggravated robbery and
misdemeanor assault charges and heard arguments regarding the
state's motion for mandatory transfer. As detailed below,
the juvenile court found probable cause for the charges.
Following the hearing, the juvenile court scheduled a
probable cause hearing for the felonious assault charge for
June 22, 2016, ordered a mental examination of Watkins, and
scheduled an amenability hearing for July 18, 2016. The
juvenile court also took Watkins' motion to dismiss the
state's motion for mandatory bindover under advisement.
At the June 22, 2016 hearing, the juvenile court found
probable cause for the felonious assault charge.
Additionally, the juvenile court once again ordered a mental
examination of Watkins and scheduled an amenability hearing
on the felonious assault charge for July 18, 2016. Pursuant
to R.C. 2152.12(G), the juvenile court issued written notice
of the hearing to the parties.
4} On June 30, 2016, Dr. Paul Deardorff conducted
the court-ordered mental examination of Watkins. On July 13,
2016, the juvenile court journalized its earlier findings as
follows: (1) it determined that Watkins was 16 years old at
the time of the commission of the offenses, (2) the offenses
would be felonies if committed by an adult, and (3) there was
probable cause supporting the charges. However, the juvenile
court denied the state's motion for mandatory bindover
because it found Watkins did not have a firearm on or about
his person or under his control while committing the offense,
and did not display, brandish, indicate possession of or use
a firearm to facilitate commission of the aggravated
robberies. Rather, the juvenile court found probable cause
for complicity to aggravated robbery. The juvenile court
ordered a mental examination of Watkins and included notice
of the hearing in its entry finding probable cause.
5} On July 18, 2016, the juvenile court conducted
the amenability hearing. The juvenile court heard testimony
from Watkins and Adam Burke, Watkins' probation officer.
Burke testified regarding the contact he has had with
Watkins, Watkins' history of delinquency, prior
dispositions ordered on such delinquency, and Watkins'
response to the prior rehabilitative efforts of the juvenile
court. During the amenability hearing, the juvenile court
acknowledged that a separate mental examination had not been
completed in the aggravated robbery case. Upon inquiry by the
juvenile court, counsel for both parties agreed to the use of
the June 30, 2016 mental examination previously completed by
Dr. Deardorff for the felonious assault case.
6} On July 25, 2016, the juvenile court issued an
entry granting the state's motion for discretionary
bindover of the aggravated robbery and assault charges for
criminal prosecution. In so doing, the juvenile court noted
Watkins was 16 years old at the time of the commission of the
offenses, it previously found probable cause for the
offenses, and had Watkins committed the offenses as an adult,
the offenses would be felonies and a misdemeanor,
respectively. In granting the state's motion, the
juvenile court considered the factors favoring transfer
pursuant to R.C. 2152.12(D) and the factors against transfer
pursuant to R.C. 2152.12(E).
7} On August 23, 2016, the Clermont County Grand
Jury returned a three-count indictment charging Watkins with
two felony counts of aggravated robbery with gun
specifications and one count of felonious assault. Watkins
entered pleas of no contest to the two counts of aggravated
robbery without the gun specifications and the count of
felonious assault. Prior to sentencing, Watkins informed the
trial court he wished to withdraw his pleas of no contest.
The trial court held a hearing on the matter and determ ined
Watkins wished to withdraw his pleas so that he could file a
motion to dismiss the charges thereby preserving for appeal
his constitutional challenges to the bindover procedure. The
trial court determined it was without jurisdiction to review
the juvenile court's bindover decision and denied
Watkins' motion to withdraw his pleas. The trial court
sentenced Watkins to an aggregate eight-year prison term,
four-year prison terms on each aggravated robbery count
running consecutive to each other and a concurrent
twelve-month prison term for the felonious assault count.
Watkins timely appealed.
8} Assignment of Error No.1:
9} THE JUVENILE COURT ERRED TO THE PREJUDICE OF
APPELLANT BY GRANTING THE STATE'S MOTION TO RELINQUISH
10} Assignment of Error No. 3:
11} THE OPERATION OF R.C. 2152.12 AND 5139.41(C)(2)
VIOLATES DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW AS
PROTECTED BY THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES
CONSTITUTION AND THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.
12} Watkins contends the juvenile court erred by
making findings unsupported by the record in its
consideration of the factors favoring and against transfer
pursuant to R.C. 2152.52(D) and (E). In turn, Watkins argues
this failure resulted in the juvenile court abusing its
discretion by granting the state's motion for a
discretionary bindover. Watkins further asserts the juvenile
court's decision to relinquish jurisdiction violated his
due process rights pursuant to the United States and Ohio
Constitutions because the juvenile court's decision-
making process was "tainted by the court's own
13} Juvenile courts have exclusive original
jurisdiction over proceedings involving a child alleged to
have committed a delinquent act. R.C. 2151.23(A)(1).
Therefore, proceedings regarding juveniles must originate in
juvenile court and continue in such court unless it
relinquishes jurisdiction in accordance with the bindover
procedures set forth in R.C. 2152.10 and 2152.12. State
v. J.T.S., 10th Dist. Franklin No. 14AP-516,
2015-Ohio-1103, ¶ 10. The Ohio Revised Code provides two
types of bindover procedures, mandatory and discretionary.
State v. D.W., 133 Ohio St.3d 434, 2012-Ohio-4544,
¶ 10. The present appeal involves the juvenile
court's decision with respect to the latter.
14} Pursuant to R.C. 2152.12(B)(3), when deciding
whether to transfer a juvenile to the adult court system, the
juvenile court must consider and weigh certain statutory
factors. The juvenile court has wide latitude in making its
determination and we will not reverse its decision absent an
abuse of discretion. State v. Ramirez, 12th Dist.
Butler No. CA2010-11- 305, 2011-Ohio-6531, ¶ 12. An
abuse of discretion is more than an error of law or judgment.
Rather, it suggests the "trial court's decision was
unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable." State v.
Perkins, 12th Dist. Clinton No. CA2005-01-002,
2005-Ohio-6557, ¶ 8. "A review under the
abuse-of-discretion standard is a deferential review."
State v. Morris, 132 Ohio St.3d 337, 2012-Ohio-2407,
¶ 14. "As long as the [juvenile] court considers
the appropriate statutory factors and there is some rational
basis in the record to support the court's findings when
applying those factors, we cannot conclude that the
[juvenile] court abused its discretion in deciding whether to
transfer jurisdiction." State v. Phillips, 12th
Dist. Clinton No. CA2009-03-001, 2010-Ohio-2711, ¶ 39.
15} According to R.C. 2152.12(B),
* * * after a complaint has been filed alleging that a child
is a delinquent child for committing an act that would be a
felony if committed by an adult, the juvenile court at a
hearing may transfer the case if the court finds all of the
(1) The child was fourteen years of age or older at the time
of the act charged.
(2) There is probable cause to believe that the child
committed the act charged.
(3) The child is not amenable to care or rehabilitation
within the juvenile system, and the safety of the community
may require that the child be subject to adult sanctions. In
making its decision under this division, the court shall
consider whether the applicable factors under division (D) of
this section indicating that the case should be transferred
outweigh the applicable factors under division (E) of this
section indicating that the case should not be transferred.
The record shall indicate the specific factors that were
applicable and that the court weighed.
16} Watkins does not contest the juvenile
court's findings with respect to R.C. 2152.12(B)(1) and
(2), and only challenges the juvenile court's weighing of
the factors for consideration as set forth in R.C. 2152.12:
(D) In considering whether to transfer a child under division
(B) of this section, the juvenile court shall consider the
following relevant factors, and any other relevant factors,