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State v. Ingram

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 20, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DARNELL D. INGRAM, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case Nos. CR-17-615726-A and CR-18-625763-A

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jonathan Block, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Jonathan A Good, for appellant

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          KATHLEEN ANN KEOUGH, JUDGE

         {¶ 1} In this consolidated appeal, defendant-appellant, Darnell D. Ingram, appeals his conviction for escape and the imposition of consecutive sentences. For the reasons that follow, we find no merit to the appeal and affirm.

         {¶ 2} In June 2017, Ingram pleaded guilty in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-17-615726 to receiving stolen property. He was sentenced to a term of community control at a community-based correctional facility ("CBCF"). However, due to a sanction by the adult parole authority, Ingram was not placed into the CBCF program until November 2017. While at the facility, he was discovered with a cell phone, which was a violation CBCF policy. Ingram verbally confronted CBCF staff, kicked open one of the locked doors, and proceeded to kick the next door that led directly to the outside of the facility. Out of fear that Ingram would break the door, which would allow all residents unrestricted access to leave the facility, a staff member unlocked the outside door and Ingram fled from the facility. As a result, Ingram was charged in February 2018 in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-18-625763 with escape and vandalism.

         {¶ 3} In July 2018, Ingram appeared in court for a probation violation hearing in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-17-615726 and for a plea hearing in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-18-625763. He pleaded guilty to escape; the vandalism charge was nolled. The court imposed a three-year prison sentence. Ingram was also found to be a probation violator and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The trial court ordered that both sentences be served consecutively for a total prison term of four and one-half years.

         {¶ 4} Ingram now appeals, raising three assignments of error for our review.

         I. Competency Evaluation

         {¶ 5} Ingram contends in his first assignment of error that the trial court erred when it failed to sua sponte order a competency examination when the record shows that he struggled to rationally follow the events of the hearing. Specifically, he contends that he was not thinking rationally when he committed the offenses at CBCF, and then was unable to pay attention during the plea hearing. Accordingly, he argues on appeal that the trial court should have ordered a competency evaluation.

         {¶ 6} A defendant is presumed to be competent and has the burden of proving his incompetency by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Williams, 23 Ohio St.3d 16, 28, 490 N.E.2d 906 (1986). A defendant is incompetent if he "is incapable of understanding the nature and objective of the proceedings against [him] or of assisting in [his] defense." R.C. 2945.37(G).

         {¶ 7} "Fundamental principles of due process require that a criminal defendant who is legally incompetent shall not be subjected to trial." State v. Berry, 72 Ohio St.3d 354, 359, 650 N.E.2d 433 (1995). "The competency standard for pleading guilty is the same as competency to stand trial." In re KA., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 104938, 2017-Ohio-6979, ¶ 11, citing State v. Bolin, 128 Ohio App.3d 58, 713 N.E.2d 1092 (8th Dist.1998). As such, an incompetent defendant may not agree to and enter a guilty plea. State v. Cruz, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 93403, 2010-Ohio-3717, ¶ 17.

         {¶ 8} Trial courts must hold competency hearings when the issue is raised. R.C. 2945.37. The right to a competency hearing, however, only rises to the level of a constitutional guarantee where the record contains sufficient indicia of incompetency such that inquiry into competency is necessary to ensure a defendant's right to a fair trial. State v. Ahmed, 103 Ohio St.3d 27, 2004-Ohio-4190, 813 N.E.2d 637, ¶ 64.

         {¶ 9} In this case, there is nothing in the record to suggest that Ingram was incompetent to stand trial or enter a plea. First, the record does not support Ingram's argument that he was unable to pay attention during the plea hearing. On two different occasions, the trial court asked for Ingram's attention - once to "pay attention" while counsel was discussing restitution with the court and then again when the trial court was about to engage in the requisite Crim.R. 11 plea colloquy with Ingram. However, during the plea colloquy, Ingram answered the trial court's questions appropriately and without any signs of confusion or misunderstanding. Additionally, he stated he was thinking clearly and asked a relevant question about jail time. ...


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