Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas No. CR-17-621144-A
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, and Anna
Woods, Assistant County Prosecutor, for appellee.
V. Pagano, for appellant.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
LASTER MAYS, J.
1} Appellant Tamesha Bennett ("Bennett")
appeals her jury trial conviction for one count of felonious
assault under R.C. 2903.13(A), a fourth-degree felony. We
reverse and remand.
I. Background and Facts
2} Bennett has a considerable mental health history
and has been admitted to several treatment facilities over
the years. On September 5, 2017, accompanied by her
caseworker, Bennett voluntarily admitted herself to
MetroHealth Medical Center due to mental health concerns.
Bennett was seeking an adjustment of her medications. After
waiting several hours to receive medical attention, Bennett
began yelling and screaming that she wanted to leave. Police
officers, including Officer Philip Onysyk ("Officer
Onysyk"), were called to assist and remained present at
the staffs request.
3} Bennett began yelling again when the staff tried
to relocate Bennett to another room. Bennett threw a plastic
meal tray at a nurse and began flailing her arms near staff
members. Officers moved to restrain Bennett by holding her
down on the bed, and Bennett protested, yelling that
"you're raping me." Bennett bit Officer Onysyk
on the leg, causing a large bruise.
4} Bennett was indicted for assaulting a peace
officer, a fourth-degree felony, under R.C. 2903.13(A). In
November 2017, the trial court ordered that the psychiatric
clinic conduct competency and sanity at the time of the act
evaluations of Bennett. At the appointment, Bennett requested
to confer with an attorney before she completed a sanity
evaluation. The psychiatric doctor submitted a letter to the
court regarding Bennett's request.
5} Before trial began on February 7, 2018, the trial
court inquired of defense counsel whether Bennett was on the
mental health docket and whether there were any issues about
competency. Defense counsel responded that there were none
that he was aware of and expressed his belief that Bennett
had been evaluated. Bennett informed the trial court that she
believed the psychiatric clinic wanted her to return for
another appointment, but she never received a letter. The
trial court acknowledged the presence of a 2013 competency
report in the file from a previous case finding that Bennett
was competent to stand trial in that matter. The trial court
inquired about Bennett's competency issues on the day of
trial and, being satisfied, began trial. Bennett was tried
before a jury and convicted the same date. Bennett appeals
Assignments of Error
6} Bennett proffers four assignments of error:
I. The trial court erred when it ordered an evaluation for
competency to stand trial and sanity at the time of the act,
and then did not hold a hearing on the issue of sanity and
the hearing on competency was insufficient to determine
II. Appellant's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights
under the United States Constitution were violated based upon
ineffective assistance of counsel.
III. The trial court erred when it denied appellant's
motion for acquittal under Crim.R. 29 because the state
failed to present sufficient evidence to establish beyond a
reasonable doubt the elements necessary to support the
IV. Appellant's conviction is against the manifest weight
of the evidence.
7} We address the second assigned error charging
ineffective assistance of counsel as it is dispositive of
this case. This court finds that Bennett was deprived of a
fair trial by the ineffective assistance of counsel regarding
the issue of Bennett's competency.
8} In an appellate review,
Reversal of a conviction for ineffective assistance of
counsel requires a defendant to show that (1) counsel's
performance was deficient, and (2) the deficient performance
prejudiced the defense. State v. Smith, 89 Ohio
St.3d 323, 327, 731 N.E.2d 645 (2000), citing Strickland
v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80
L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Defense counsel's performance must
fall below an objective standard of reasonableness to be
deficient in terms of ineffective assistance of counsel.
See State v. Bradley, 42 Ohio St.3d 136, 142, 538
N.E.2d 373 (1989). Moreover, the defendant must show that
there exists a reasonable probability that, were it not for
counsel's errors, the results of the proceeding would
have been different. State v. White, 82 Ohio St.3d
16, 23, 693 N.E.2d 772 (1998).
State v. Jones, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 102260,
2016-Ohio-688, ¶ 14.
[t]o establish ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant
must show (1) deficient performance by counsel, i.e.,
performance falling below an objective standard of reasonable
representation, and (2) prejudice, i.e., a reasonable
probability that but for counsel's errors, the
proceeding's result would have been different.
Strickland at 687-688, 694; Bradley at
paragraphs two and three of the syllabus.
Id. at ¶ 15.
[i]n evaluating a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel,
a court must give great deference to counsel's
performance. Strickland at 689. "A reviewing
court will strongly presume that counsel rendered adequate
assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise
of reasonable professional judgment." State ...