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Court News Ohio

Springfield Man’s Convictions and Death Sentence Upheld

Image of death row inmate Jason Dean

Jason Dean of Clark County will remain on death row after today’s Ohio Supreme Court decision.

Image of death row inmate Jason Dean

Jason Dean of Clark County will remain on death row after today’s Ohio Supreme Court decision.

After a four-day crime spree in 2005, Jason Dean was convicted for killing one man and attempting to murder six other people in Springfield. Today, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed Dean’s convictions and imposition of the death penalty.

Three Shootings in Four Days
It was early on April 10, 2005, when Dean approached Andre Piersoll and Yolanda Lyles while they were sitting in their vehicle in a mini-mart parking lot. Dean tried to sell them some pills. He left and then came back demanding money and shooting at the car. Piersoll was shot in the left arm and was grazed on his right cheek.

Two days later, Dean, 16-year-old Josh Wade, and Dean’s girlfriend drove to Dibert Avenue. Dean’s girlfriend testified that both men were armed and told her they were looking for a house and a car. Shots were fired at one home, and a woman who lived there called 9-1-1. Across the street, at 609 Dibert Ave., several people came out of the residence when they heard the gunfire. Two of them walked to a car on the street to check for damage and discovered several bullet holes, while two others and a child stayed on the porch.

Dean’s car then headed back down the street, and the woman checking the damaged vehicle ran to the house. As the car drove by, shots were fired toward 609 Dibert. Everyone sought cover, and no one was injured by the gunshots.

Dean’s girlfriend stated that Dean and Wade went out the next night to a local bar to rob someone. The pair arrived at the bar near 11:45 p.m. and left a few minutes later. Titus Arnold, who worked at a nearby group home for troubled youth, left his job before midnight. Witnesses reported that two men got out of a car, began chasing Arnold, and shot at him. Arnold was dead when police arrived. The men returned to the car and drove away. Witnesses recognized Wade as the shooter and the driver.

Case History
Dean was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder, six counts of attempted murder, and several other crimes including firearm specifications. The jury convicted Dean on all charges, and the court imposed the death penalty. However, on appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court concluded in 2010 that he had not received a fair trial from an impartial judge, and the Court reversed the decision and ordered a new trial.

At that trial, a second jury found Dean guilty on all charges, and he was sentenced to death.

Court’s Analysis
In today’s decision, the Court reviewed and rejected each of the 15 arguments presented in Dean’s appeal.

Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger first reviewed the errors that Dean claimed occurred at trial because of the admission of irrelevant evidence. But given the extensive evidence of Dean’s guilt, the impact of any irrelevant evidence was minimal and did not affect the outcome of the trial, the Court concluded.

Justice Lanzinger also addressed a claim that the jury received an improper instruction about “transferred intent” related to the attempted murders of those who were not injured – Lyles and the four people at 609 Dibert Ave. The jury had asked the court during deliberations whether it mattered if the victims were the intended target.

“We hold that that the doctrine of transferred intent was properly applied to the attempted-murder charges,” Justice Lanzinger wrote. “Attempted murder, like murder, requires a purpose to kill. The victims of the transferred intent are readily identifiable because they were standing on the porch or seated in the front seat of the car. A showing of harm is unnecessary since the ‘intent is what is transferred, not the harm.’ … Thus, we hold that the trial court’s instruction was proper.”

Independent Sentencing Review
As required by statute, the Court also reviewed whether Dean’s death sentence was appropriate and proportional. The Court held that the aggravating circumstance – murdering Arnold as part of a course of conduct – was supported by the evidence and then considered the weight of the mitigating factors.

Because Wade fired the shot that killed Arnold, the Court examined the fact that Dean was an accomplice rather than the principal offender in that murder.

“… Dean’s participation in Arnold’s murder and the attempted murders was extensive,” Justice Lanzinger wrote. “The evidence shows that Dean was 30 years old and Wade was only 16. Dean exercised great influence over Wade and supplied the car and the weapons used in the offenses. Dean also attempted to shoot Arnold before Wade killed him.”

As a result, the Court reasoned that Dean was complicit in the murder and that his role as an accomplice has less weight in mitigation. While acknowledging several other issues, Justice Lanzinger concluded that the mitigating factors were weak compared to the course of conduct involving Arnold’s murder and six attempted murders. The Court held that the death sentence in this case was appropriate and proportional.

Joining Justice Lanzinger’s majority opinion were Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French.

Justice William M. O’Neill concurred in the convictions but dissented on the death sentence for the reasons he stated in a 2013 death-penalty ruling, State v. Wogenstahl. In his dissent in Wogenstahl, Justice O’Neill concluded that the death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

2011-2005. State v. Dean, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-4347.

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Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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