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State v. Graham

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Adams

March 28, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
MYRIA GRAHAM, Defendant-Appellant.

          Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender, and Katherine Ross-Kinzie, Ohio Assistant Public Defender, Columbus, Ohio, for appellant.

          David Kelley, Adams County Prosecuting Attorney, and Kris D. Blanton, Adams County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, West Union, Ohio, for appellee.


          Marie Hoover, Presiding Judge

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Myria Graham, appeals from the sentence she received in the Adams County Court of Common Pleas after she pleaded guilty to one count of illegal manufacture of methamphetamine in the vicinity of juveniles and one count of endangering children. Because she has not established by clear and convincing evidence that her sentence is either contrary to law or that the record does not support it, we affirm her sentence.

         I. Facts and Procedural Posture

         {¶2} In March 2017, the Adams County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Myria Graham with one count of illegal manufacture of methamphetamine in violation of R.C. 2925.04(A), with a specification that the offense occurred in the vicinity of juveniles, a felony of the first degree, one count of illegal assembly or possession of one or more chemicals that may be used to manufacture methamphetamine in violation of R.C. 2925.041(A), with a specification that the offense occurred in the vicinity of juveniles, a felony of the second degree, and three counts of endangering children in violation of R.C. 2919.22(B)(6), felonies of the third degree. Graham initially pleaded not guilty to the charges.

         {¶3} Graham subsequently withdrew her not guilty plea and entered a plea of guilty to illegal manufacture of methamphetamine and the specification that the offense occurred within the vicinity of juveniles as well as one of the charges of endangering children in return for the dismissal of the remaining charges. The trial court held a hearing at which it accepted Graham's plea.

         {¶4} At the plea hearing, Graham stated that she had completed high school and had taken some college courses. She testified that on March 24, 2017, she knowingly decided to manufacture methamphetamine. She assembled Sudafed, lithium, cold packs, and a bottle but was waiting for her sister-in-law to arrive to help her with the "gassing part" of the manufacturing process. Graham was using a building right next to the home. Her husband and their three children-ages 2, 5, and 11-were inside that house, within 100 feet of where she was manufacturing the methamphetamine.

         {¶5} After the trial court accepted Graham's plea and found her guilty of the offenses, it then proceeded to sentencing. At the sentencing portion of the hearing, the State gave no recommendation, instead submitting it "to the discretion of the court." Graham's counsel requested that she be given the minimum sentence because she was remorseful, was a few weeks away from giving birth to her fourth child, and had no criminal history other than a speeding ticket. He noted that Graham was arrested only because her brother and sister-in-law contacted a deputy sheriff to try and get her help through treatment, not a prison sentence. Graham's counsel read a statement on her behalf in which she expressed regret for her decisions, which affected her as well as her children and husband. Graham also stated that she realized that she put her children "in serious danger" and that she knew that she needed to "face the consequences of [her] actions." Graham's brother provided a statement that he had contacted a deputy sheriff. This statement discussed the brother removing the children from the home and having an intervention in which they could save Graham's life through treatment. Instead, law enforcement arrested Graham and incarcerated her.

         {¶6} Graham's mother and husband appeared and requested that the trial court place her in a chemical-dependency treatment program at a community based correctional facility in lieu of prison. They stated that Graham had left her family for about a year and a half, moved in with a man who taught her how to make methamphetamine, and developed a drug problem. About a month before her arrest, Graham had decided to return home as she was pregnant with her fourth child.

         {¶7} In its sentencing decision, the trial court emphasized that it had "considered the princip[le]s and purposes of sentencing under Ohio Revised Code Section 2929.11" and "balance[d] the seriousness or recidivism factors under [R.C.] 2929.12." The court first observed that it could not grant Graham's mother's and husband's request to sentence her to the program at the community based correctional facility because it was required to impose mandatory prison terms for her crimes. The court then noted other cases with dismal outcomes. When the trial court had sentenced defendants to lower prison terms, the defendants would be released and would continue to illegally manufacture drugs. In addition, the court discussed cases in which illegal drugs had resulted in the deaths of children or the births of drug-addicted babies.

         {¶8} The trial court placed particular emphasis on safeguarding Graham's three existing children as well as the fourth unborn child she was expecting from her dangerous behavior:

* * * I just keep thinking at some point it has to reverse. Now when I'm telling about this to other people, I'll be adding we had a mom, pregnant, eleven, five, and two-year old[]s, making Meth. You're going to have that baby in prison, I think we've had three in prison this year. I can't let you go home, I have to ensure that that baby is born drug free, and you give me [no] reason to believe that you would. If you[']r[e] making these kind of decisions.

         {¶9} The trial court then observed that hearing her family speak on her behalf had "softened" it "a little bit" and that it would impose a seven-year mandatory prison term for the illegal manufacture and specification offense and a concurrent two-year mandatory prison term for the endangering children offense, leaving an aggregate seven-year mandatory prison term. The court also imposed a mandatory five-year term of post-release control; it waived the $10, 000 minimum mandatory fine based on her affidavit of indigency, and instead fined her $1, 250. The court noted that it had given her "a gift" in the seven-year term, and that her brother and sister-in-law who called the police about her decision to manufacture methamphetamine were heroes who stopped her from killing or deforming her unborn child and from killing her husband and the rest of her children. The trial court entered a judgment entry reflecting the sentence on the same day.

         {¶10} In its judgment entry, the court noted that it had "considered the record, oral statements, any victim impact statements and presentence report prepared, as well as the principle[s] and purposes of sentencing under [R.C.] 2929.11(A)" and that "[t]o achieve those purposes, the sentencing Court shall consider the need for incapacitating the offender, deterring the offender and others from future crime, rehabilitating the offender, and making restitution to the victim ...

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