Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Fifth District: On Second Review, Court Finds Trial Marred By Errors But Conviction Stands

Closeup image of a wooden gavel resting on a wooden sound block.

Nine months after the Supreme Court ordered a second review of a Richland County man’s murder charges, an Ohio appeals court upheld his conviction.

Closeup image of a wooden gavel resting on a wooden sound block.

Nine months after the Supreme Court ordered a second review of a Richland County man’s murder charges, an Ohio appeals court upheld his conviction.

A broken courthouse candy machine triggered a series of events that brought a Richland County man’s murder conviction to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Nine months after the high court returned the case to an Ohio appeals court, the man’s life sentence has been affirmed.

In 2020, the Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled that Khairi Bond’s right to a fair trial was violated when the courtroom was partially closed to the public after an altercation during a break in the trial broke an M&M’s machine. The Fifth District ordered a new trial, which the Richland County Prosecutor’s Office appealed to the Supreme Court.

In November 2022, the Supreme Court ruled the partial closing was an error, but not enough to warrant a new trial. The Court directed the Fifth District to consider Bond’s other three arguments that his conviction for the 2018 shooting death of Nolan Lovett should be overturned.

Last week the Fifth District considered Bond’s claims, including that the trial court improperly allowed a  crude rap music video to be played to the jury. The appellate court upheld Bond’s conviction.

Shootout in Front of Home Leads to Murder Charge
On a May 2018 morning, Nolan Lovett left his Mansfield home to meet a friend and exchange drugs. When Lovett and his friend returned to Lovett’s home, Bond was in front of his house. All three men were armed, and Bond shot Lovett in the chest. Lovett later died from the wound.

Four days later, Bond was located by the Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force near Columbus and arrested. He first denied any knowledge of the shooting. When confronted with video surveillance footage from a nearby establishment showing him fleeing Lovett’s home, he admitted he was there. He then maintained he didn’t have a gun.

Police recovered two cellphones at the crime scene that belonged to Bond, and one contained text messages in which Bond indicated he owned a gun. On the cellphone was also a 14-word tweet that Bond sent to an identified friend. The tweet quoted rapper YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and the lyrics to a song that read, “hit him in his head knock off dreads now he can’t make a sound.” Prosecutors noted that Lovett wore his hair in dreadlocks.

Bond was indicted on two counts of murder; one under R.C. 2903.02(A) for purposely murdering Lovett. The second count was for felony murder under R.C. 2903.02(B). Each count carried a firearm specification.

Trial Partially Closed After Candy Machine Incident
On the third day of a scheduled five-day trial in Richland County Common Pleas Court  the clash ensued in the courthouse outside of the courtroom. The trial was on a break and the jury was in the jury room. One attorney involved in the case believed she saw one of the jurors come out of the jury room while the incident was occurring but didn’t know if the juror saw what happened.

The trial judge determined that the incident warranted reducing the number of people who could attend the trial. He closed the remaining portion of the trial so that only to the immediate family members of Bond and Lovett were allowed to watch.

Bond was convicted of felony murder, but acquitted of purposeful murder. The trial court sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison and ordered that he serve it consecutively to a mandatory three-year sentence for the firearm specification.

Bond appealed the verdict to the Fifth District, raising four legal arguments, including that he was denied his constitutional right to a public trial. He also argued that his trial lawyer was ineffective, the prosecution tainted the jury by playing the full video of the rap song he had tweeted, and the evidence suggested Lovett’s friend, not Bond, shot Lovett.

At the time the courtroom was closed, Bond’s attorney didn’t object. The Fifth District ruled in 2020 that the trial judge didn’t provide sufficient justification for the partial closure. The court also stated that even though Bond didn’t object, the closure constituted a “structural error,” which could only be remedied by ordering a new trial for Bond.

The prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court. In State v. Bond, the Supreme Court was divided in its reasoning, but unanimously concluded the partial closure of the courtroom wasn’t an error that required a new trial.

The Court remanded the case to the Fifth District to consider Bond’s other three arguments.

Appeals Court Examines Trial Issues
In a unanimous opinion, the Fifth District expressed concern about the introduction of the music video and Bond’s claim that it was irrelevant evidence that misled the jury. The prosecution stated the purpose of introducing the song during the trial was to show that Bond went to Lovett’s house with the intent to murder Lovett. The state argued that Bond sent the tweet two hours before the shooting, and the reference to “dreads” in the song was used to refer to Lovett.

Writing for the Fifth District, Judge W. Scott Gwin noted the jury watched the music video and was provided a written copy of the entire 634 words in the song.

The Fifth District wrote that while the prosecutor argued it was played to show Bond intended to murder Lovett that day, the state never charged Bond with premeditated murder. Further, the appeals court noted, the jury acquitted Bond of purposely murdering Lovett.

“The lyrics of the song, as well as the music video, are not relevant to any material issue that is actually in dispute in the case,” Judge Gwin wrote. “Either Bond shot Lovett or he did not. The lyrics and the video were irrelevant to that determination.”

Since the jury did not find Bond acted with any specific intention to shoot Lovett, the appeals court ruled it was highly unlikely the playing of the video contributed to Bond’s conviction. The opinion stated after removing the evidence related to the lyrics, the remaining evidence “is sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bond committed felony murder.

The Fifth District also rejected Bond’s remaining two arguments.

State v. Bond, 2023-Ohio-2361.

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