Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

State of Ohio v. Vernon L. Yontz, II, Case no. 2021-0382
Fifth District Court of Appeals (Guernsey County)

State of Ohio v. Jackie Jackson, Case no. 2021-0452
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

State of Ohio v. Eric Bellamy, Case no. 2021-0481
Fifth District Court of Appeals (Delaware County)

Can Probation Department Prohibit Treatment With Specific Medication?

State of Ohio v. Vernon L. Yontz II, Case No. 2021-0382
Fifth District Court of Appeals (Guernsey County)

ISSUE: Must a person sentenced to court supervision first violate a condition of the supervision to challenge the condition’s legality in court?

Vernon Yontz II was indicted on one count of aggravated possession of drugs in August 2017. Yontz requested “intervention in lieu of conviction” (ILC). An evaluation determined he suffered from severe opioid use disorder and moderate cannabis disorder.

The state legislature created ILC to enable trial courts to stay a criminal case and order a period of rehabilitation for a defendant if the court believes that drug or alcohol use was a factor leading to the offense. To obtain ILC, the defendant pleads guilty. If the defendant completes the intervention plan, the court dismisses the case, and the defendant isn’t convicted.

In July 2019, Yontz pled guilty to aggravated possession, a fifth-degree felony, and the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court approved his ILC request. The court ordered him to serve one to three years of “probation-like supervision.” The court’s entry listed several conditions, including any requirements imposed by the county’s adult probation department.

Probation Department Bars Suboxone Treatment
Through much of 2019, Yontz was prescribed Suboxone, the brand-name version of a medication for treating opioid use disorders. In September of that year, the probation department had Yontz sign a prescription medication policy. The policy stated, “Suboxone will not be an approved medication” and mandated that Yontz work with a physician to be weaned off the medication in 60 to 90 days. Yontz received a decreasing dose through the end of the year, and the record shows no indication that he received the medication after Dec. 22, 2019.

Yontz filed a motion with the trial court in March 2020, asking to modify his ILC terms. He argued the requirement to taper off Suboxone violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the equal protection clauses in the U.S. and Ohio constitutions. He wanted to show that the medication was medically necessary. The court rejected the request.

Yontz appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeals, arguing the ADA violation and violations of the equal protection clauses in the U.S. and Ohio constitutions.

Appeals Court Determines No Controversy Exists
The Fifth District ruled that Yontz’s appeal was moot. The court stated it had no authority to decide a case that isn’t an actual controversy between parties or to give an opinion on an abstract or hypothetical issue. The court noted that Yontz appeared to comply with the mandate to stop taking Suboxone. No evidence indicated a need for the trial court to modify its ILC intervention plan to allow him to use the medication, the court concluded.

“There is no remedy or relief this [c]ourt can provide,” its opinion stated.

Yontz appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to review the issue.

Man Maintains He Followed Probation Department Order to Avoid Conviction
Yontz’s brief notes he is still under ILC supervision and subject to the probation department’s no-Suboxone policy – “which continues to negatively impact his health, well-being, and opportunity for successful rehabilitation.”

The brief states that the medication doesn’t cure opioid use disorder, but it is a life-saving treatment to stabilize brain function and treat the symptoms of the chronic disease. His brief maintains that his motion to the trial court included documentation from his treatment provider and his court-referred provider recommending continued use of the medication along with counseling.

“The fact that Mr. Yontz titrated off Suboxone for the sole reason of complying with the Department’s policy and avoiding the severe consequences of the trial court’s revoking his ILC supervision, imposing a conviction, and potentially sending him to prison does not mean the case is moot,” his brief argues. “The only acts that could have mooted this case are Mr. Yontz’s successful completion or the trial court’s revocation of the ILC program.”

Yontz maintains that the Fifth District wrongly applied the criteria for determining whether a case is moot and can’t be heard by a court. The ruling wrongly forces individuals in Guernsey County to defy their ILC conditions and potentially face “a loss of liberty” in order to challenge the legality of the no-Suboxone condition in court, Yontz contends.

Prosecutor Files No Brief in Case
The Guernsey County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t file a brief in response and will not be permitted to argue the case before the Supreme Court.

Treatment Professionals Warn of Harm in County’s Policy
Nine public-health scholars, the Ohio Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, and the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers submitted an amicus curiae brief supporting Yontz’s position. The public-health scholars are from Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and Ohio State University College of Medicine.

The scholars stress that decisions about the treatment of opioid use disorder should be customized to individual patients and be a medically based decision made by the patient and the patient’s doctor.

“Removing this vital tool from physicians’ toolbox – especially by an uninformed blanket policy like Guernsey County’s – puts people like Mr. Yontz at increased risk of relapse, overdose, and death,” the scholars argue.

Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Vernon L. Yontz II from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office: Carly Edelstein, 614.752.7033

Representing the State of Ohio from the Guernsey County Prosecutor’s Office: Lindsey Donehue, 740.432.9389

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Was Vehicle Search After Police Officer Left Car Door Open Constitutional?

State of Ohio v. Jackie Jackson, Case No. 2021-0452
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)


  • When a police officer opens a driver’s door and orders the driver to step outside the vehicle, is that action a search under the U.S. and Ohio constitutions?
  • Does the officer’s order to the driver to exit the vehicle give the officer the right to search the vehicle’s interior, or must the officer have an independent justification for the search?

Jackie Jackson was in his vehicle on March 19, 2019, when Cincinnati police officers stopped him for the darkness of the tint on his windows. The stop was recorded on police body cameras. An officer asked Jackson for his identification. Jackson was doing something on his cellphone and didn’t produce his ID right away. The officer told Jackson to hand over his ID, adding “if you don’t, we’ll be getting out of the car.” One second later, the officer opened the car door and ordered Jackson to exit the vehicle.

Jackson got out of the vehicle, and the car door was left wide open. He was taken behind his vehicle where other officers conducted a pat-down search. Jackson gave them his ID and said his insurance information was on his cellphone.

Another officer went up to the car and looked inside through the open door. He noticed what he thought was a marijuana joint on the floor alongside the driver’s seat. That observation led police to search Jackson’s vehicle. Inside a bin in the back seat, police found clothing and a handgun.

Driver Wants Handgun Excluded From Evidence
In Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, Jackson asked that the evidence from the search be suppressed, arguing the search was unconstitutional. The court denied the request. In September 2019, Jackson pled no contest to having a weapon illegally, carrying a concealed weapon, and improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle. The court found him guilty of the offenses and sentenced him to community control.

Jackson appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, which in February 2021 upheld the trial court’s judgment. He appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which accepted the case.

Police Not Permitted to Search Inside Car, Driver Contends
Jackson states that this appeal questions the extent of law enforcement’s authority in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Pennsylvania v. Mimms (1977), which was followed by the Supreme Court of Ohio in State v. Evans (1993). In Mimms, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition in the constitution against unreasonable search and seizure isn’t violated when a law enforcement officer orders drivers or passengers to exit a vehicle during a lawful traffic stop.

However, Jackson maintains, the authority granted in Mimms doesn’t extend to the search of a vehicle’s interior. When the officer left the car door open during his traffic stop, the officer exposed parts of the car’s interior that would have stayed concealed had the door been closed, Jackson states. While it is constitutional for police to order a driver out of a vehicle, the police may search the interior only with a search warrant or by identifying an exception to the requirement to obtain a warrant, Jackson argues. He states no exception to the warrant requirement was identified in his case.

Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the parallel provision in the Ohio Constitution prohibit unreasonable search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ….”

Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the parallel provision in the Ohio Constitution prohibit unreasonable search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ….”

The First District upheld the vehicle’s search because the marijuana joint was in plain view. Jackson counters that police officers must have the right to access an area before they can seize items in plain view.

Visible Joint Was Probable Cause for Vehicle Search, State Argues
The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office responds that it wasn’t a search when the officer opened the car door because the officer’s intent was to remove Jackson from the vehicle, not to search his car. While looking in Jackson’s car through the open door, the other officer saw the marijuana joint, which gave the police probable cause to believe the car contained drugs, the prosecutor states. The police were then authorized to conduct a search without a warrant under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, the office argues. The prosecutor also maintains that observing a plainly visible object doesn’t constitute an unconstitutional search.

The prosecutor notes that the subsequent search of the vehicle led to the discovery of the handgun, which is the evidence that Jackson wanted excluded. The First District upheld the search of the vehicle based on the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, so the handgun was properly allowed as evidence, the prosecutor argues.

Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Filed on Each Side
The Ohio Public Defender’s Office has submitted an amicus curiae brief supporting Jackson. The office asserts that the police used the window tint as a pretext to stop Jackson. This type of policing “results in the inexcusable targeting of racial minorities,” the office contends in its brief.

The state public defender also argues the police didn’t give Jackson a reasonable amount of time to exit his vehicle to comply with the Mimms order. By opening the driver’s door without giving Jackson a chance to step out, the officer trespassed on Jackson’s private property unless the officer could articulate a safety concern or identify an exigent circumstance, the office maintains.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office supports the Hamilton County prosecutor in its amicus brief and will participate in oral arguments, sharing the time allotted to the county prosecutor. The attorney general argues the officer’s opening of the car door for Jackson didn’t transform the subsequent events into an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The officer didn’t open the door to seek evidence, so the later observation of the joint followed from lawful police conduct, the attorney general states.

The office concludes that Mimms is irrelevant to determining whether this search was lawful because the case turns on whether the automobile exception to the warrant requirement applies.

Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Jackie Jackson from the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office: Sarah Nelson, 513.946.3665

Representing the State of Ohio from the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office: Philip Cummings, 513.946.3021

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Does Failure to Disclose Expert Witness Report Bar Expert from Testifying at Retrial?

State of Ohio v. Eric Bellamy, Case No. 2021-0481
Fifth District Court of Appeals (Delaware County)

ISSUE: Does a failure to disclose an expert witness’ written report to the opposing party 21 days prior to trial prevent the expert witness from testifying in a retrial?

Eric Bellamy met a mother of four young children in 2008. A year later, the two married and moved into a home in Delaware County. A year later, they divorced.

The oldest of the children is a daughter identified in court records as “N.S.” She was 6 and 7 years old while Bellamy and her mother were married. During that time, N.S.’s mother worked, but Bellamy didn’t and frequently stayed home with the children.

Ten years later, in 2018, the mother borrowed N.S.’s cellphone and noticed N.S. was searching for Bellamy. N.S. told her mother she wanted to see if Bellamy was living with other little girls and doing the same thing to them as he did to her. The mother asked what Bellamy had done, and N.S. replied “everything.” Believing “everything” had a sexual connotation, the mother took N.S. to the children’s advocacy center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital where a forensic interviewer recorded an interview with N.S.

N.S. explained that Bellamy initially exposed himself to her when she was 6 and later began forcing her into sexual acts. She said Bellamy forced her to have intercourse with him. Following the interview, Bellamy was arrested. In January 2019, Bellamy was indicted on 10 counts, including six counts for the rape of N.S.

In preparation for the trial, the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office provided Bellamy’s attorney with discovery, including the name and credentials of an expert witness, Dr. Stuart Bassman. As the July 2019 trial date approached, the prosecutor discovered Bassman’s expert report wasn’t delivered to Bellamy’s lawyer 21 days prior to the trial, which is required by Ohio court rules. The report was received six days before trial.

Attorney Questions Expert’s Right to Testify
After jury selection, Bellamy’s attorney explained to the trial judge that Bassman’s report was delivered late and that he might try to limit the expert’s testimony. He noted Bassman’s report indicated the expert never interviewed N.S. or Bellamy and was making general statements about child victims of sexual abuse. The prosecutor admitted the error, but asked the trial court to allow Bassman to testify. The judge agreed.

After N.S. testified, but before Bassman was called, Bellamy’s lawyer sought to exclude Bassman from testifying because the report was delivered late. The judge allowed Bassman to testify, and the doctor bolstered N.S.’s statements by explaining the credibility of delayed disclosures in sexual abuse cases and why a child might wait 10 years before disclosing abuse.

Bellamy was convicted of all charges and sentenced to 28 years to life in prison. He appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. The Fifth District ruled the prosecutor broke the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure by failing to provide the expert witness report 21 days in advance of trial. The Fifth District remanded the case to Delaware County Common Pleas Court for a new trial. The decision stated Bassman couldn’t testify at the new trial.

The prosecutor’s office appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to hear the case.

Rules Doesn’t Bar Expert at Retrial, Prosecutor Argues
The prosecutor disagrees with the Fifth District’s interpretation of Crim.R. 16(K), which states that expert witnesses must provide to all parties a written report regarding their findings and opinions at least 21 days before trial. A trial judge can modify the time period “for good cause shown” as long as it does not prejudice any party. Failure to disclose the written report “shall preclude the expert’s testimony at trial,” the rule states.

The prosecutor maintains that Bellamy’s appeal questioned the use of Bassman’s testimony at his trial, but didn’t assert that the doctor would be barred from testifying at a retrial. The office argues the Fifth District imposed the prohibition on its own.

The Fifth District cited the Supreme Court’s 2020 State v. Boaston decision, which required that testimony be excluded if there isn’t a reasonable excuse for not delivering the expert’s report to the opposition 21 days in advance. The prosecutor argues the Fifth District focused too much on the term “at trial,” and interpreted it to mean “any trial.” The office contends the rule applies only to a trial that is scheduled to occur within 21 days of the delivery of the report. The intent of the rule is to protect against unfair surprises that harm the opposition by preventing them from knowing what the expert is going to discuss. In this case, Bellamy knew for months about the expert and could ascertain what the testimony would be about, which is why the trial court allowed the expert to testify, the prosecutor asserts.

Since a second trial would be more than a year after the witness report was provided, there is no rational reason to believe the rule would apply to Bellamy’s retrial, the office asserts. At the retrial, Bellamy would have more than sufficient time to challenge Bassman, the prosecutor maintains.

Crim.R. 16 includes a “purpose” section, the prosecutor notes, that states the overall goal of the discovery rules are to ensure the “information necessary for full and fair adjudication of the facts” is available. Blocking an expert from testifying at a trial when the report has been delivered 21 days in advance of the trial would undermine the fairness of the second trial, the prosecutor concludes.

Rule Fairly Applied, Offender Asserts
Bellamy notes the only evidence presented at his trial was the testimony of N.S., the hospital interviewer, and others who heard about the claims in 2018. There were no witnesses other than N.S. testifying about events from the time they occurred, nor was there any physical evidence, he notes. Bellamy asserts the prosecutor’s office repeatedly told jurors that Bassman’s expert testimony was the essential proof necessary to show that N.S.’s delayed disclosure was believable. Bellamy argues those claims led to his conviction.

The Fifth District examined the rule, and the Boaston decision, and determined the late delivery of the expert’s report prejudiced him, Bellamy states. The appellate court applied the rule as written, he adds. If Bassman is allowed the testify, the rule is evaded, and the prosecutor receives a “super continuance” to retry the case as if the office never broke the rule, Bellamy asserts.

The rule drafters selected the word “preclude” to indicate the witness can’t testify at an upcoming trial, Bellamy argues. The definition of “preclude” is to prevent something from becoming possible, Bellamy explains. The rule is worded to prevent an expert witness from testifying in a trial if the 21-day report deadline is missed, he argues. Bellamy concludes the prosecutor is seeking a second chance to have something it shouldn’t have had in the first place: the right of Bassman to testify after missing the deadline.

Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Submitted
The Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s Association submitted an amicus curiae brief supporting the Delaware County prosecutor’s position.

Dan Trevas

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing the State of Ohio from the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office: Christopher Ballard, 740.833.2690

Representing Eric Bellamy: April Campbell, 614.356.8515

These informal previews are prepared by the Supreme Court’s Office of Public Information to provide the news media and other interested persons with a brief overview of the legal issues and arguments advanced by the parties in upcoming cases scheduled for oral argument. The previews aren’t part of the case record, and aren’t considered by the Court during its deliberations.

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