What Happened on Remand: State v. Darmond

Case Background

Demetius Darmond, along with his mother-in-law, Iris Oliver, was indicted on one count of drug trafficking and one count of drug possession. Darmond alone was also indicted on one count of possessing criminal tools and two counts of child endangerment.

The basis for the indictment in the case was a controlled interception by a state agent of a Fed-Ex package containing marijuana sent to Oliver’s address, but not to her name. The package was delivered to Oliver’s residence.  When Darmond picked the package up, he was arrested.  A second similar package was intercepted but not delivered to Oliver’s address because of Darmond’s arrest.

It turned out, though, that there were not just two intercepted packages, but seven—all similarly packaged, all sent from either Phoenix or Tempe Arizona, all from a Kinko’s store.  None of the other five was sent to Oliver’s name or address. The fact that there were five other similar packages sent to different names and addresses was only disclosed for the first time during the agent’s testimony at trial as part of the state’s case.  Both defense counsel and the prosecutor on the case were taken by surprise.

After this disclosure (which the state has conceded was a discovery violation) the defense moved to dismiss the case with prejudice for the state’s failure to disclose the reports and other information about the other five packages.  The defense claimed this evidence was exculpatory; the state argued it was not.  After a recess, the trial judge held a hearing on the matter.  He made no determination about whether the evidence was inculpatory or exculpatory, but declared a mistrial and dismissed the case with prejudice.  The Eighth District Court of Appeals affirmed, finding no abuse of discretion in this ruling.

Key Precedent

Lakewood v. Papadelis, 32 Ohio St.3d 1, 511 N.E.2d 1138 (1987), syllabus, paragraph 2.

A trial court must inquire into the circumstances surrounding a discovery rule violation and, when deciding whether to impose a sanction, must impose the least severe sanction that is consistent with the purpose of the rules of discovery.

Certified Conflict Question

The high court accepted this case on conflict certification and discretionary appeal, and consolidated the cases. The certified question was “does the holding in  Lakewood v. Papadelis apply equally to instances where the state has committed a discovery violation?” The issue in the discretionary appeal was the same.

Merit Decision

On March 21, 2013, the Supreme Court handed down a merit decision in State v. Darmond, 2013-Ohio-966. In a 6-1 decision written by Justice O’Neill, the Court found that the trial court abused its discretion in dismissing this criminal case with prejudice for an inadvertent state discovery violation. The Court held that the rule requiring the least severe sanction under the circumstances for a discovery violation must apply equally to the state and to the defense. The case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Read a complete analysis of the merit decision here.

Case Syllabus

The holding in Lakewood v. Papadelis, 32 Ohio St.3d 1, 511 N.E.2d 1138 (1987), paragraph two of the syllabus, that “[a] trial court must inquire into the circumstances surrounding a discovery rule violation and, when deciding whether to impose a sanction, must impose the least severe sanction that is consistent with the purpose of the rules of discovery” applies equally to discovery violations committed by the state and to discovery violations committed by a criminal defendant.

What Happened on Remand

After the case was remanded back to the trial court, Darmond filed a motion for sanctions coupled with a motion to dismiss on July 9, 2013. After holding a hearing, the court dismissed both motions on July 22.  The court found that “a dismissal is only warranted in the most serious circumstances where in the interest of justice, the prejudice cannot be overcome. The facts in this case do not warrant a dismissal.”

Darmond waived his right to a jury, and trial commenced on September 23, 2013. On the first day of trial, the State presented its case and rested.  At the start of the second day of trial, Darmond filed another Rule 29 motion to dismiss; the court granted dismissal as to the criminal tools count but overruled the motion in regard to the trafficking, drug possession, and child endangerment counts. Subsequently, Darmond presented his case and both parties gave their closing arguments. The same day, the court found Darmond not guilty on all counts.

Concluding Observation

Same result via a different route as a dismissal with prejudice? Still, this Supreme Court decision provides the state with a useful precedent.

Student Contributor: Cameron Downer

 

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