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State v. Bennett

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 6, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
TAMESHA BENNETT, Defendant-Appellant.

          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.

          Joseph V. Pagano, for appellant.



         {¶ 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 the conviction.

         II. 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 appellant's competence.
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 conviction.
IV. Appellant's conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         III. Discussion

         {¶ 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.

         (¶9} In addition,

[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.

         {¶10} Also,

[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 ...

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