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State v. McNeir

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

January 11, 2018

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
ERIC M. MCNEIR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-15-600903-B

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT John P. Parker

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor BY: Brian Radigan Assistant County Prosecutor

          BEFORE: Boyle, J., Stewart, P.J., and Laster Mays, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          MARY J. BOYLE, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Eric M. McNeir, appeals his convictions. On appeal, he raises two assignments of error:

1. The guilty pleas were not voluntarily made and the Court's extensive colloquy/comments were coercive when considered as a whole and McNeir's rights under Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969) were violated.
2. The trial court violated Due Process and ORC 2945.37(B) by failing to hold a competency hearing before accepting McNeir's guilty pleas.

         {¶2} Finding no merit to either of McNeir's assignments of error, we affirm.

         I. Procedural History and Factual Background

         {¶3} On November 20, 2015, the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury indicted McNeir with two counts of aggravated murder; one count of murder; one count of attempted murder with a notice of prior conviction and a repeat violent offender specification; two counts of aggravated robbery with a notice of prior conviction and a repeat violent offender specification; seven counts of felonious assault with a notice of prior conviction and a repeat violent offender specification; two counts of tampering with evidence; one count of having weapons while under disability; one count of involuntary manslaughter; and two counts of discharge of firearm on or near prohibited premises. Except for the counts of tampering with evidence, all of the counts carried one- and three-year firearm specifications. McNeir pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

         {¶4} During a pretrial hearing on May 16, 2016, the court inquired as to the status of plea negotiations between the parties. After the state explained that it would amend the indictment and recommend a sentence of 18 to 22 years in exchange for McNeir's plea of guilty, the trial court engaged in an extensive colloquy with McNeir explaining his options, including the different sentences that he potentially faced under the plea agreement versus at trial.

         {¶5} The trial court then asked McNeir a number of preliminary questions concerning his age and comprehension of the proceedings against him. In response to the court's questions, McNeir stated that he did not know his age, what was going on, or who his lawyers were. As a result, the court had a detailed conversation with McNeir and his counsel in an effort to address McNeir's alleged confusion. After McNeir's defense counsel informed the court that they had met with their client several times and that he understood everything they explained to him, the trial court explained to McNeir that his trial was set for the following week. McNeir, however, again expressed confusion. The trial court, in support of its belief that McNeir's confusion was a ruse, set forth his observations of McNeir's slouched, seated position and failure to maintain eye contact on the record. The trial court then recessed and gave defense counsel time to privately speak with McNeir.

         {¶6} After the recess, defense counsel for McNeir advised the court that they were "instructed by [their] client to motion the Court for a mental health assessment with regard to competency." The trial court asked McNeir's defense counsel if "there [was] anything in [their] professional dealings with [McNeir] that [they thought was] supportive of that request[, ]" to which counsel stated that he would "rather not answer that question." The court then had a lengthy discussion with McNeir, during which the court stated that it believed McNeir was playing games and not genuinely confused and asked if McNeir had any thoughts or reasons on why a competency evaluation was necessary. After McNeir continued to claim that he was confused and explained that he did not know why ...


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