Please E-mail suggested additions, comments and/or corrections to Kent@MoreLaw.Com.

Help support the publication of case reports on MoreLaw

Date: 01-19-2021

Case Style:


Case Number: G-4801-CL-201901302-000

Judge: Patricia A. Delaney


Plaintiff's Attorney: EVY M. JARRET
Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office

Defendant's Attorney:

Free National Lawyer Directory


Just Call 855-853-4800 for Free Help Finding a Lawyer Help You.


Toledo, OH - Criminal defense attorney represented Michael Massucci with the striking a road worker on U.S. Route 24, killing the victim instantly murder charge.

{¶2} This case arose on August 29, 2018, around 4:00 p.m., when appellant
struck a road worker on U.S. Route 24, killing the victim instantly.
The crash: Alec Myers observes a motorist strike and kill his coworker
{¶3} Nathan Soto and Alec Myers worked for The Gerken Companies doing road
paving, milling, and construction. Around 3:30 p.m. on August 29, 2018, their last task of
the day was placing orange barrels along a concrete wall on U.S. Route 24 in an area
near Fallen Timbers. Both men wore their regular work attire: jeans, t-shirts, and bright
neon yellow-orange safety vests. The men arrived at the scene in a Gerken paving truck,
a 2013 Chevy Silverado pickup truck weighing 6311 pounds. The truck has a “360 light”
on top of the cab, lights on the fender, and lights on the tool box in the bed. Myers testified
these lights were in operation and working immediately prior to the crash. T. 245.
{¶4} U.S. Route 24 is a divided highway running east and west. When the crash
occurred, U.S. Route 24 was under construction for a paving project. The eastbound
lanes were recently paved, with only a dashed white line separating the right and left hand
lanes. The outside edge of the traveled portion of the roadway was not marked in any
traditional fashion. A stone berm and guardrail border the southern edge of the roadway.
The northern side of the roadway has a concrete median divider which separates the east
and westbound sides of U.S. Route 24. The surface of the roadway was new asphalt at
the time of the crash. There were no obvious defects which would have prevented safe
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 3
travel of motor vehicles. Appellee’s Ex. 3, Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP)
Reconstruction Report, 2. When traveling eastbound on U.S. Route 24 in the area of the
collision, a slight left hand curve is present, as well as a slight upwards grade. The
roadway ascends this slight grade in order to overpass a set of railroad tracks. Id., 3.
{¶5} Approaching the scene of the crash, an eastbound driver would first pass
two signs stating “Road Construction Ahead.” A short distance further, two signs
indicated “No Edge Lines.”
{¶6} Soto and Myers parked the Gerken truck on what would have been the berm
of the highway if edge lines had been present. The truck was not in the lane of travel; it
was approximately 2 to 3 feet away from the guardrail on the right side of the road. Myers
was able to exit the passenger door, but had to “squeeze” to get out against the guardrail.
{¶7} Soto and Myers were moving construction barrels from one side of the road
to the other, placing them against a cement wall to keep drivers away from the wall at
night due to the missing edge lines. The men had placed 4 or 5 barrels and intended to
place a total of 10. They had to wait for breaks in traffic, pursuant to their training, to
move the barrels into place. They were at the scene for about 30 minutes and traffic was
light. Myers estimated 100-150 cars went by; no one came close to them or appeared to
have any issue navigating the construction zone and barrels.
{¶8} At 4:01 p.m., the truck’s tailgate was down. Myers handed Soto the barrels
and as breaks came in traffic, Soto took the barrel across the highway to the other side.
At the exact moment of the crash, Myers testified, Soto was standing by the taillight of the
truck with a barrel in his left hand. He was not in the lane of travel.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 4
{¶9} A vehicle struck Soto and the Gerken truck at almost exactly the same time.
Myers watched the crash occur from about three feet away. The truck, which had been
idling in park, was pushed forward a considerable distance, into the guardrail. The red
Ford 500 was ahead of the truck, also against the guardrail.
{¶10} Soto sustained catastrophic injuries and death was instantaneous. The
force of the vehicle striking him severed his limbs and his brain stem. His torso went
through the windshield of the Ford 500 and came to rest in the front passenger seat.
Myers could not at first understand what he witnessed. He walked toward the Ford 500
and observed Soto’s legs on highway. Thinking Soto might still be alive, he looked into
the car and saw Soto face down in the front seat. Myers testified that appellant “seemed
nonchalant for someone who just killed someone.” Myers asked appellant if Soto was
still alive and appellant responded “his arm is back there, so….” Myers knew there was
“no hope” and called 911.
{¶11} Myers drives this section of U.S. Route 24 two to three times per week, still,
and is very familiar with it. He testified the paving truck’s lights were on, he and Soto
wore their neon safety vests, and they worked amongst orange construction barrels. The
men and their truck should have been visible to motorists in the eastbound lanes of the
highway for the length of two to three football fields.
The witness: Glenn Levy stops in the aftermath of the crash
{¶12} Glenn Levy is a truck driver who was eastbound on U.S. Route 24 on
August 29, 2018, en route to Toledo. Levy noted the roadway approaching the
construction zone was new pavement, and part of the road was unstriped. A dotted white
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 5
center line divided the two lanes of travel, but there were no edge lines. Levy noted
warning signs about a construction zone ahead.
{¶13} Levy’s truck is programmed to travel 62 miles per hour. Levy traveled in
the right lane and a red car passed him in the left lane. Levy testified the car was not
speeding, although it was traveling faster than his own speed. Levy was about 200 yards
behind the red car, which was still in the left lane, when he looked down to change his
radio. He heard an impact and looked up in time to see the red car careening off the left
side of a construction vehicle parked at the side of the road. A cloud of dust and fluids
came up, and the red car slid close to the guardrail about 100 yards in front of the
construction vehicle.
{¶14} Levy entered the left lane and slowed down. He observed car parts littering
the roadway, and an arm. Levy parked and called 911. At the time he thought the limb
must belong to a passenger in the red car. After calling 911, Levy got out of his truck and
approached appellant. He asked if appellant was OK, and appellant responded that he
was fine. Levy asked, “What about your passenger?” referring to the man face-down in
appellant’s front passenger seat.1 Appellant responded, “He’s not my passenger.” Levy
told appellant to take a seat on the guardrail and went to appellant’s car to check the
pulse of Nathan Soto. Soto had no pulse.
OSHP Investigation: Crash reconstruction shows late evasive action
{¶15} Trooper Eiden is a crash reconstruction expert with the OSHP, and
reconstructed the crash on August 29, 2018. Two vehicles were involved: a Chevy

1 Soto entered appellant’s vehicle through a large hole in the passenger side of the
windshield and came to rest face-down on the passenger seat.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 6
Silverado pickup truck (the Gerken vehicle) and a Ford 500 (appellant’s vehicle). Both
vehicles had Event Data Recorders (EDRs), which Eiden examined during his
investigation. The Silverado’s EDR indicated the vehicle was stationary and idling prior
to the crash. When a catastrophic event happens, the Silverado’s EDR is able to capture
five seconds prior to the catastrophic event.
{¶16} The Ford 500’s EDR captures 20 seconds prior to a catastrophic event. The
vehicle was traveling at a speed of 73 to 74 miles per hour.2 At 2.6 seconds prior to
impact, the module revealed the driver “let off the accelerator” and the speed began to
decline to about 60 miles per hour. T. 295. At four-tenths of a second prior to impact,
the brakes were applied—less than one second.
{¶17} Eiden examined the highway for marks and gouges in the road. In this
case, there was no evidence of evasive action taken by appellant prior to the crash; i.e.,
there was no evidence appellant changed direction or speed until the deceleration at 2.6
second prior to impact, and the brake at .04 seconds prior to impact. The lack of evidence
in the roadway was consistent with the findings from the EDR.
{¶18} Eiden also testified about crash investigations and his experience as a
trooper generally. The most common traffic violation by an impaired driver is going
outside of marked lanes. Eiden testified that at the scene, appellant stated he passed the
semi and the crash occurred about 20 seconds later. T. 317. Eiden opined that even if
appellant’s view of the berm area of the roadway had been obstructed as he passed the
semi, his “field of view” would have opened up immediately after passing the semi. Upon
cross-examination, Eiden was asked what factors might shorten the period of time in

2 The speed limit at the location is 70 miles per hour.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 7
which a driver takes evasive action to avoid a crash, and while Eiden agreed that although
obstructed vision could be a factor, more likely factors were distracted driving or impaired
driving. T. 318.
OSHP Investigation: Appellant’s statements, field sobriety tests, and vehicle
{¶19} Trooper William Clay was assigned as the investigating officer of the crash.
He arrived at the scene and examined the contents of Soto’s wallet to confirm his identity.
He found appellant about 20 feet away from his vehicle, the Ford 500. Appellant
acknowledged he was the driver and in response to questions, told Clay he was not
injured. Clay administered Miranda warnings to appellant before asking him about the
crash. Clay found it bizarre that appellant kept asking for his wallet from the front
passenger seat of his vehicle because it was evident that there was a deceased body on
the front passenger seat of appellant’s vehicle.3 Clay removed appellant from the scene
and placed him in his patrol car for questioning because he wasn’t sure “reality had set
in” for appellant. T. 341-342. Clay testified appellant’s manner was unusually aloof and
he didn’t seem to comprehend that he had killed someone, despite the torso in his
passenger seat. Clay characterized appellant as lethargic. Upon cross-examination,
Clay acknowledged it is common for someone to be in shock after a serious crash, but
even allowing for shock, he felt appellant behaved unusually.
{¶20} Appellee’s Exhibit 43 is a written statement provided by appellant at the
scene. Clay asked questions and appellant at first wrote his own answers, then Clay

3 Upon cross-examination Clay acknowledged it may have been his cell phone that
appellant repeatedly requested. Either way, Clay found it odd that appellant was focused
on retrieving something from the vehicle.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 8
wrote both questions and answers. Appellant wrote, “I was driving in left lane, after
passing semi I switched lanes to the right, mostly a blur after that.” Appellant said he was
not injured; he had scratches on his leg and hand. He was belted and traveling about 65-
70 miles per hour. Appellant denied he was distracted by anything, other than moving
around a semi. When asked how long he was behind the semi, appellant responded, “I
don’t know. It was going slow then I tried to pass it. I wouldn’t guess I was behind it more
than ten seconds.” Appellant said he did not see the construction vehicle or the workers;
nor did he see the road-construction warning signs. He acknowledged he drove this route
almost every day on his way to work at Marco’s, which was his destination at the time of
the crash. He was coming from home and he got eight hours of sleep the night before.
Appellant said he went to bed around 5:00 a.m. and woke up around 1:30 or 2:00 p.m.
which was usual for him because he works the late shift. Appellant said, “It takes me a
while to wind down,” and Clay asked, “What do you do to wind down?” Appellant
responded, “Pretty much watch TV.”
{¶21} Appellant said he didn’t know what lane he struck the pedestrian in; there
were no edge lines on the highway. Appellant acknowledged he struck the pedestrian in
the shoulder, and Clay asked whether he saw any other vehicles traveling on the
shoulder. Appellant said no. Clay asked, “Why did you start driving in the shoulder?” and
appellant responded, “My plan was to go to the third lane I just. In the shoulder” (sic).4
Clay asked if appellant was on any type of medication, and appellant responded that he
used to take Wellbutrin for depression but stopped about a month ago because he felt it
wasn’t working. He denied taking any illegal substances.

4 There is no third lane on U.S. Route 24 in the area of the crash.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 9
{¶22} Clay’s suspicions were raised by appellant’s incomplete statements and
strange manner. He drove this route every day, and yet he said he was attempting to
enter a nonexistent third lane of the highway. His answers to questions trailed off and
were incomplete. It was a bright, clear, sunny day; the workers had neon vests on; the
construction vehicle was illuminated; it was difficult to believe that anyone driving by could
not have seen the workers and the vehicle.
{¶23} As Clay took appellant’s statement, other troopers inventoried his vehicle in
preparation to be towed. On the passenger rear floorboard, troopers discovered a purple
Crown Royal bag containing a glass smoking pipe, green plant material, and a marijuana
cigarette. The marijuana cigarette was burnt at the edges, and the glass pipe contained
green material suspected to be marijuana.
{¶24} After finding the items, Clay asked appellant whether his “winding down”
included smoking marijuana. Appellant said yes, he regularly smoked marijuana at home.
Clay asked how much he smoked the night before, and appellant replied, “A bowl.”
Appellant said that was a typical amount for him.
{¶25} At this point Clay intended to ask appellant to submit to field sobriety tests.
Pursuant to Clay’s training, marijuana can impair the body for up to 24 hours. Appellant
said he went to bed at 5:00 a.m., and the crash was around 4:00 p.m. Clay is a certified
Drug Recognition Examiner (DRE), but he did not conduct a DRE upon appellant because
he knew this was a major investigation of a fatal crash and he sought to avoid confirmation
bias. Instead, he would ask for a DRE at the OSHP post.
{¶26} Clay did, however, conduct field sobriety tests at the crash scene. The tests
were videotaped and played at trial as appellee’s Exhibits 4 and 5. Clay testified to
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 10
several clues he observed on the field sobriety tests. On the one-leg stand, appellant
made an attempt but struggled, and said he had recently completed two days of hard
work, which Clay found inconsistent with his earlier statements. On the horizontal gaze
nystagmus, appellant swayed back and forth. On the “modified Romberg test,” which
measures a subject’s internal clock as they estimate a time range of 30 seconds,
appellant’s time assessment was slow. Clay testified this indicated appellant’s ability to
observe and react was slow. Clay observed eyelid tremors, which he testified were
indications of marijuana usage; he also observed leg tremors on the one-leg stand and
walk-and-turn tests. Appellant was unable to stand on one foot. Clay testified appellant
demonstrated problems with divided-attention skills, factors which indicate impairment.
{¶27} Clay contacted the OSHP post and asked for a DRE to be available. He
transported appellant to the post for the DRE and a urine test. Clay also obtained a
search warrant for a blood draw, which was performed at St. Luke’s Hospital.
OSHP Investigation: DRE opines appellant impaired by cannabis
{¶28} Trooper Chuck Grizzard is an OSHP DRE and was called to the post to
perform the Drug Recognition Examination upon appellant. Grizzard prepared a report
which was entered at trial as appellee’s Exhibit 6.
{¶29} Grizzard first encountered appellant in a room at the OSHP post where
appellant had his head down and appeared to be asleep. Grizzard introduced himself
and immediately noticed appellant’s pupils were dilated, his eyes were red, and his face
was flushed. Appellant’s speech was slow and deliberate; Grizzard described him as
“lethargic and disconnected,” apparently not comprehending that he struck and killed
someone. Appellant told Grizzard he had no medical problems and was not currently
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 11
taking any medications, although he used to take Wellbutrin and stopped about a month
{¶30} Grizzard asked appellant to perform a series of field sobriety tests. On the
modified Romberg balance test, appellant swayed, counted out loud instead of to himself,
and estimated 30 seconds in 48 actual seconds. Grizzard also observed eyelid tremors.
On the walk-and-turn test, appellant lost his balance once, stepped briefly off the line,
raised his arms, staggered, and was unbalanced when attempting to turn. Grizzard also
observed leg tremors during this test. During the one-leg stand, appellant also exhibited
leg tremors and displayed “an impaired perception of time.” During the finger-to-nose
test, he touched his nose with the pad of his finger and kept his eyes open, failing to follow
{¶31} For “clinical indicators of impairment,” Grizzard noted lack of convergence
in one eye and appellant’s pupils were dilated. For “signs of ingestion,” Grizzard noted
appellant’s oral area was reddened and his entire oral cavity had a greenish hue.
Appellant’s tongue had raised taste buds and there appeared to be pieces of green plant
material between his teeth.
{¶32} Appellant made several statements about the crash to Grizzard. He said
he was in the “middle lane” when he came up behind a semi, so he changed lanes to the
left lane to pass the semi before he decided to change lanes again. Grizzard advised the
highway was two lanes only, and appellant seemed not to understand. Appellant said
there were no vision obstructions and no vehicles in front of him. Grizzard asked whether
he saw the construction workers’ neon vests or the flashing lights on the construction
vehicle and he said “no.” Appellant said he was tired and when asked whether he realized
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 12
he struck a person he said, “I have no idea what happened.” Grizzard testified appellant
had no idea the torso of the person he struck was in the passenger seat next to him.
{¶33} Appellant also stated, “I take Xanax but I’m not prescribed it, I just buy it
from people.” He said he took Xanax “a couple days ago.”
{¶34} Grizzard’s ultimate opinion as a DRE was that appellant was under the
influence of cannabis and unable to operate a motor vehicle safely. Grizzard based his
opinion on appellant’s “distinct and measureable impairment on field sobriety tests” and
appellant’s description of “no apparent medical problems, illness, or injury to account for
the impairment or negate the exam.” The indicators of cannabis noted by Grizzard
included lack of convergence, dilated pupils, “altered perception of time and distance,”
body tremors, bloodshot eyes, debris in mouth, disoriented, drowsiness, impaired
memory, and lack of concentration.
{¶35} Grizzard also kept notes of his conversation with appellant. Appellant was
asked what drugs or medications he used, and appellant said marijuana every day, Xanax
whenever he can buy it, and Percocet whenever he can buy it. When asked how much
and when, appellant said he “smoked a bowl” of marijuana between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00
a.m. Xanax use was “maybe yesterday” and Percocet was “taken last week.”
{¶36} Upon cross examination Grizzard repeatedly acknowledged that any of
these indicators taken in isolation could have many causes. For example, appellant’s
red, dilated eyes are not only an indication of drug use. While it is possible appellant was
crying after the crash, Grizzard did not observe appellant crying.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 13
{¶37} Grizzard testified that nothing he observed during the DRE gave him any
indication of Xanax use, other than appellant’s own statements that he last used Xanax
a day before. T. 444.
OSHP Investigation: Blood and urine results positive for marijuana and Xanax
{¶38} Forensic toxicologists from the OSHP Crime Lab testified about the results
of appellant’s blood draw and urine analyses.
{¶39} Appellant’s blood sample tested positive for Alprazolam5 in the amount of
123.23 ng/ml, plus or minus 9.85 ng/ml, and positive for T.H.C. (Marihuana Metabolite) in
the amount of 7.30 ng/ml, plus or minus 0.51 ng/ml. The Alprazolam number is so high
that the toxicologist had to dilute the sample because it was above the highest calibration
point of the instrument used to measure the sample. The marijuana metabolite result is
above the per-se limit for an O.V.I. violation in Ohio. T. 475. The toxicologist testified
that Ohio does not distinguish between active and inactive metabolites of marijuana in its
O.V.I. statutes; the state sets a limit, and appellant was above that limit.
{¶40} Appellant’s urine result was positive for Alpha-Hydroxyalprazolam, positive
for Alprazolam, and positive for T.H.C. (Marihuana Metabolite) in an amount of 93.14
ng/ml, plus or minus 9.31 ng/ml. The forensic toxicologist testified that appellant’s urine
result was above the per se limit for marijuana metabolite. She further testified there is
no such number associated with Alprazolam; a result is only “positive” or “negative.”
{¶41} Appellee called a witness from the State Board of Pharmacy to testify to the
effects of Alprazolam (Xanax) upon the body; it is a central nervous system depressant
and users should not engage in hazardous occupations of activities requiring mental

5 Alprazolam is the drug commonly known by the brand name Xanax. T. 505-506.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 14
alertness such as operating a motor vehicle. Further, clinical warnings for Alprazolam
advise against using it with other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol or
Appellee’s expert toxicologist: Dr. Forney opines appellant impaired by Xanax
{¶42} Dr. Robert Forney was called by appellee as an expert in forensic toxicology
and drug analysis. Forney’s role was to explain the drug test results.
{¶43} Forney started with the blood sample test results of Alprazolam in the
amount of 123.23 ng/ml +/- 9.85 ng/ml and T.H.C. (Marihuana Metabolite) 7.30 ng/ml +/-
0.51 ng/ml.
{¶44} Forney testified that the marijuana metabolite in appellant’s blood was
inactive and had no effect on cannabinoid receptors in the body. Marijuana metabolite is
a product of the breakdown of drugs but was inactive. This was not a surprising result,
per Forney, because THC becomes undetectable in the blood in three to five hours. He
emphasized that THC is in the brain much longer than it is detectable in the blood. He
could not rule out the possibility, therefore, that when a metabolite was detected in the
blood, THC affected the person five to seven hours before the blood was drawn.
{¶45} Regarding the Alprazolam results, Forney testified 123.23 ng/ml is a
significant amount, an amount which cannot be reconciled with appellant’s claim that he
last took Xanax two days before the crash. If that was true, the concentration would have
been lower. Forney testified that the level detected was so high that if appellant truly had
taken the Xanax two days earlier, he would have been close to an overdose to reach the
level he was at after the collision.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 15
{¶46} Forney opined appellant was under the influence of Alprazolam at the time
the blood was collected. He further opined appellant was impaired in his perception,
judgment, reaction, and coordination; he was more likely to take risks and less likely to
anticipate a response to changes in circumstances. This impairment could adversely
affect appellant’s operation of a motor vehicle by making him more likely to drive while
intoxicated while lowering his ability to recognize danger and respond appropriately. THC
adds to the depressant effect of Alprazolam.
{¶47} Upon cross-examination, Forney acknowledged an inactive marijuana
metabolite would have no effect on appellant’s driving. Forney stated that if there was
active THC in appellant’s brain it would increase the amount of impairment; simply
because THC was not quantified in the blood does not mean it was not affecting his brain.
Forney notes the DRE found influence of cannabis and the explanation for the inactive
metabolite could be the length of time between the crash and retrieval of the samples.
Defense case
{¶48} Appellant’s first witness was a crash reconstructionist who testified that after
reviewing the OHSP crash investigation, reconstruction, and findings, he had no issues
with investigators’ conclusions about how the crash occurred. He opined, however, that
the lack of lane markings and the contour of the road were additional factors in the crash.
{¶49} Dr. Robert Belloto, a pharmacist, testified as appellant’s expert witness in
the areas of pharmacology, toxicology, statistics, and chemistry. Belloto disagreed with
Forney’s conclusions and opined that the marijuana metabolite was inactive and therefore
played no role in the crash and, “crash risk with the use of Alprazolam is not increased,”
based upon Belloto’s reading of a NHTSA report.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 16
State’s Exhibit 48: Appellant’s hospital records are introduced
{¶50} Upon cross examination, the prosecution drew Belloto’s attention to the
materials he reviewed in formulating his report. Item number 8 is “ProMedica Flower
Hospital Campus Medical Records (8 pages).” This item caused confusion because
Belloto testified these were medical records of appellant that he reviewed, but the
prosecution was unaware of any such records. Appellant had not been treated after the
{¶51} Outside the presence of the jury, the prosecutors asked defense trial
counsel if appellant was hospitalized at ProMedica Flower Hospital, and counsel
responded “I don’t recall if he was.” T. 727. A brief recess was taken to determine
whether the ProMedica Flower Hospital records could be found.
{¶52} In chambers, the following information was developed. Eight days prior to
the crash, appellant was at Flower Hospital withdrawing due to an addiction to Xanax.
Records generated from that visit state appellant was addicted to Xanax, Percocet, and
alcohol. T. 735. Defense trial counsel said that based upon information from appellant’s
family, appellant went to the hospital once, on August 20, 2019, got no relief, and left.
This information was not provided to appellee in discovery and the trial court pointed out
it would have been germane to appellee’s expert witnesses and their opinions.
{¶53} Defense trial counsel acknowledged he sent the Flower Hospital records to
Belloto, but he didn’t know he had the records or he would have turned them over if he
thought they were discoverable. T. 738. Defense trial counsel did argue the records
were not relevant to the issue of whether appellant was impaired on the date of the crash.
T. 738, 763.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 17
{¶54} The trial court asked the prosecutors how they wanted to proceed and
whether they wanted Forney to be recalled or to review the records. The prosecutors
demurred and said they would simply question Belloto about the hospital records.
{¶55} The following conversation was had outside the presence of the jury:
* * * *.
THE COURT: Back on the record in chambers. [Prosecutor.]
[PROSECUTOR]: Judge, we would intend to admit the report
as a medical report for purposes of medical diagnosis, as to enter
into the record as it was a material utilized by [Belloto] when he
prepared his expert report.
It would be our intent to question him on the report, and it
would be our intent to reserve the right to call Dr. Forney for Rebuttal
testimony specifically in light of the new piece of evidence that has
been provided to the State with respect to [appellant] and his use
and treatment—use and overdosing of Xanax.
THE COURT: And have you reached out to Dr. Forney? Do
we know he is actually available?
[PROSECUTOR]: He is available, Judge, and again, we can
see how the testimony plays out with Dr. Belloto the rest of the day.
But he is in the office today and did indicate he will be available in
the morning.
THE COURT: All right. [Defense trial counsel.]
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 18
[DEFENSE TRIAL COUNSEL]: Judge, whatever the State
wants to do is fine with me. I want the Court to know it is totally
inadvertent. I didn’t realize I had this record or I would have given it
to [the prosecutors] before.
I would point out that he was referenced in Dr. Belloto’s report
as something he apparently reviewed, so had I known that you didn’t
have it I would have found it. It was apparently misfiled in my file.
This case, Judge, involves many, many documents, pieces of
paper. I am surprised I even found it, frankly. It was never my intent
not to provide it. Had I known I had it I certainly would have provided
Again, I don’t know if it’s going to materially change anything.
[PROSECUTOR]: I would think that if he’s—there’s a
statement by [appellant] eight days prior that he pops seven benzos,
which is what Alprazolam and Xanax is, that he is struggling with
withdraw symptoms from that medication. I would think that would
be fairly material in this case where there is an expert testifying that
there is no impairment as a result of the toxicology.
[DEFENSE TRIAL COUNSEL]: Well, eight days later, nine
days later.
[DEFENSE TRIAL COUNSEL]: That’s the difference.
Whatever you guys want to do is fine.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 19
THE COURT: Well, the scenario is not one that I find overly
credible, the explanation. It would be one of those situations
where—and I think these were your words before, [defense trial
counsel], something to this effect, the nature of this magnitude—a
case the nature of this magnitude the case represents would also
dictate that you know everything about the case including the
documents that you sent to your expert to have that opinion rendered
based on these 28 items that are listed in the report as part of the
basis for the expert’s opinion.
The fact that these documents were turned over to your expert
but not to the State, and in a way that you’ve explained is less than
The State will be allowed to cross examine the witness. The
State will also be able to move for admission of the document. I
believe what I’ve heard you ask for is fine so I’m assuming that
means that’s without objection that the document is going to be
received. If there is going to be an objection we’re going to hear it in
here in hear it now, [defense trial counsel].
[DEFENSE TRIAL COUNSEL]: Your Honor, the only
objection I would post is to the relevance of the document. It is nine
days before this incident of driving and the collision. I don’t see the
relevance of it.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 20
[PROSECUTOR]: It’s relevant in that the Defense expert
himself utilized the document in generating his expert report and
actually lists that as something he would have reviewed despite the
fact that he did not mention any of the factors from the report in his
findings or criticism of Dr. Forney.
[DEFENSE TRIAL COUNSEL]: His report concentrated on
the impairment, if any, of appellant on August 29, 2018 which is what
Dr. Forney concentrated on as I read his report.
THE COURT: [Prosecutor], you had read a line out of the
report, something to the effect of at some point with struggling with
the addiction when not taking it and then all of a sudden going back
to taking it takes several at a time, or something to that effect. What
was that?
[PROSECUTOR]: He states he has had withdraws (sic) from
Percocet before but does not feel that is an issue. He states he will
go days without using Benzos and then pop, in quotes, seven at a
[PROSECUTOR]: Benzos would be Xanax.
THE COURT: So that sounds like information that if it was
provided to an expert witness may or may not have some sort of an
impact, that being not turned over to the State and the State’s
witnesses and/or experts having the opportunity to review that, I think
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 21
there’s grounds for some leeway in allowing the State to the conduct
Cross Examination of this witness utilizing this report (sic
I do find that it is relevant, and that the document, if requested
during the examination, in all likelihood will be received. * * * *.
* * * *.
T. 741-746.
{¶56} Back in the presence of the jury, appellee’s Exhibit 48 was marked for
evidence and the prosecutor used the document to cross-examine Belloto.
{¶57} Appellee’s Exhibit 48 is an 8-page document from ProMedica Flower
Hospital Campus ED dated 8/20/18 in the name of appellant and states in pertinent part:
Chief complaint: Patient presents with withdrawal-drugs.
Wants detox from Xanax, gets them off the street. Patient presents
to ER requesting withdrawal. Pt was previously addicted to Xanax,
percocets, and ETOH. He was going to Racing for Recovery but is
now going through a withdrawal. Pts mother was the one who
recommended for him to come in. Pt does not usually get terrible
withdrawals from EtOH and Xanax, but gets cravings for percocets.”
Discharge planning note: SW met with pt who came to Flower
due to withdrawal from Xanax. Pt states he went to Racing for
Recovery for one meeting so far and they told him to get detox. SW
informed pt we do not offer detox here at Flower. Pt is not suicidal
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 22
or homicidal. Pt does not have health insurance but states he
resides in Lucas county. He states he goes for days not using but
uses Xanax, Percocet, and alcohol at times. He states he has had
withdrawals from Percocet before but does not feel that is an issue
not (sic). He states he will go days without using benzos and then
“pop” seven at a time. * * * *.
{¶58} Belloto acknowledged “seven Benzos at a time” is not a therapeutic dose.
T. 749, 760. Appellee moved to admit Exhibit 48, appellant objected as to relevance, and
the trial court reserved ruling on admission.
{¶59} At the conclusion of the day’s evidence, the parties outlined their positions
regarding Exhibit 48. The trial court admitted the exhibit into evidence as a statement for
purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment pursuant to Evid.R. 803.4 and as a document
used to create an expert opinion. T. 790.
Indictment, trial, conviction, and sentence
{¶60} Appellant was charged by indictment with one count of aggravated
vehicular homicide pursuant to R.C. 2903.06(A)(1)(a) and (B), a felony of the second
degree, and one count of aggravated vehicular homicide pursuant to R.C.
2903.06(A)(2)(a) and (B), a felony of the third degree. Appellant entered pleas of not
{¶61} The matter proceeded to trial by jury. Appellant moved for judgment of
acquittal pursuant to Crim.R. 29(A) at the close of appellee’s evidence and at the close
of all of the evidence. The motions were overruled. Appellant was found guilty as charged
upon Count I, aggravated vehicular homicide pursuant to R.C. 2903.06(A)(1)(a) and (B),
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 23
a felony of the second degree. Appellant was found guilty of the lesser offense of
vehicular homicide pursuant to R.C. 2903.06(A)(3)(a) and (C) upon Count II. The trial
court found the offenses merged for purposes of sentencing and appellee elected to
sentence upon Count I. The trial court thereupon imposed a prison term of 7 years.
{¶62} Appellant now appeals from the trial court’s judgment entry of conviction
and sentence.
{¶63} Appellant raises two assignments of error:
{¶66} In his first assignment of error, appellant argues his conviction for
aggravated vehicular homicide is not support by the evidence on a number of bases.
Essentially his argument is that the presence of inactive marijuana metabolites cannot
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 24
support a violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(j) which is sufficient to establish a predicate
offense for an aggravated-vehicular-homicide conviction. We disagree.
{¶67} Appellant’s first assignment of error addresses his conviction upon Count I,
aggravated vehicular homicide pursuant to R.C. 2903.06(A)(1)(a), which states in
pertinent part, “No person, while operating or participating in the operation of a motor
vehicle, * * * shall cause the death of another * * * [a]s the proximate result of committing
a violation of division (A) of section 4511.19 of the Revised Code or of a substantially
equivalent municipal ordinance[.]”
{¶68} In the instant case, the jury was instructed that five elements must be
proven beyond a reasonable doubt before appellant could be found guilty of aggravated
vehicular homicide, to wit: That appellant, 1) while operating a motor vehicle 2) did cause
3) the death of another, to wit: Nathan Soto, 4) as a proximate result of committing a
violation of Revised Code 4511.19, to wit: a) operating with a prohibited drug
concentration while under the influence of a drug of abuse, to wit, Alprazolam; or b)
operating with a prohibited drug concentration; or c) operating under the influence of
drugs of abuse; and 5) venue. T. 845-846.
{¶69} We perceive the premise of appellant’s argument to be that proximate
causation for an aggravated-vehicular-homicide offense is not supported if the predicate
offense is an O.V.I. inactive-metabolite offense. Appellant cites State v. Moore, 6th Dist.
Wood No. WD-18-030, 2019-Ohio-3705, for the premise that proof of inactive metabolites
are immaterial to the proximate-cause element of R.C. 2903.06(A)(1)(a). Appellant has
selectively cited portions of Moore, and we disagree that the decision supports his
argument. Moore is instructive in the instant case, though, because it is distinguishable.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 25
{¶70} The evidence in Moore established that the defendant was driving a vehicle
accompanied by her boyfriend as a front-seat passenger. Id. at ¶ 3. The vehicle struck
a tree, a witness called 911, and police found the defendant near the scene of the crash
asking, “Is he dead?” and “Who was driving?” Officers found the vehicle with the
boyfriend, deceased, in the driver’s seat. Id. The defendant was charged with, e.g.,
aggravated vehicular homicide pursuant to R.C. 2903.06(A)(1)(a), with the O.V.I. offense
being a violation of operating a vehicle under the influence of a listed controlled substance
or a listed metabolite pursuant to R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(j)(ii). A blood test found a metabolite
of cocaine in the defendant’s blood, which Dr. Forney testified was inactive. Id. at ¶ 18.
The defendant argued “[a]ll of the homicide charges against [her] require the State to
prove that some sort of culpable conduct, or the mens rea of recklessness[,] was the
proximate cause of the death,” but the state did not present sufficient evidence, or any
evidence, as to what caused the accident; there was no testimony that she was under the
influence of anything at the time of the accident which would impair her ability to operate
a vehicle. Id. The state responded that R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a) is a strict liability statute
and therefore the state only had to prove that appellant was under the influence while
operating a vehicle; furthermore, because appellant's OVI conviction is a strict liability
offense, her conviction for aggravated vehicular homicide, which is predicated on her
violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1), is a strict liability offense as well.
{¶71} The Court concluded that the state could not prove the defendant caused
the victim’s death as a proximate result of driving with a prohibited concentration of
cocaine in her blood in the absence of evidence regarding the potential effects that a
prohibited concentration of cocaine would have on a driver:
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 26
Here, [defendant] notes R.C. 4511.19 provides for a per se
violation, and argues “it is possible for a per se violation of R.C.
4511.19 to constitute the predicate offense for a violation [of] R.C.
2903.06 and or R.C. 2903.04, the State must still prove that the
predicate offense was the proximate cause of the accident.”
[Defendant] contends the predicate offense is based on a per se
violation involving cocaine metabolite, which the state's expert, Dr.
Forney, acknowledged was inactive. [Defendant] asserts the state
did not ask Dr. Forney whether or not anything in her blood would
have affected her ability to operate a vehicle.
Since [defendant] challenges the proximate cause or result
element of the offense of aggravated vehicular homicide, we will limit
our analysis accordingly.
In State v. Filchock, 166 Ohio App.3d 611, 2006-Ohio-2242,
852 N.E.2d 759 (11th Dist.), Filchock argued the evidence was not
sufficient to sustain the conviction of aggravated vehicular homicide
because the victim's death “was not caused by * * * impaired driving,
but from some other cause.” Id. at ¶ 76. The appellate court held “‘the
definition of “cause” in criminal cases is identical to the definition of
“proximate cause” in civil cases * * * [and] [t]he general rule is that a
defendant's conduct is the proximate cause of * * * death to another
if the defendant's conduct is a “substantial factor” in bringing about
the harm.’ ” (Citation omitted.) Id. at ¶ 77. The court noted that the
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 27
trial testimony revealed there could have been several causes of the
victim's death, including Filchock operating a motor vehicle under the
influence of alcohol; Filchock's reckless or negligent operation of a
motor vehicle; the victim's slow speed; or Filchock's “monkey
business” with another vehicle. Id. at ¶ 56.
The court observed “the question for the jury was whether
there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Filchock's act of
[operating] of a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol was the
direct cause of [the victim's] death, and without which [the death]
would not have happened.” Id. at ¶ 56. The court noted the evidence
revealed Filchock “was observed to be swerving in and out of traffic,
* * * was driving at a high rate of speed, * * * fled the scene without
calling the police, * * * had a strong odor of alcohol on his person, *
* * had bloodshot eyes * * * refused field-sobriety tests, and * * * [had
a] blood-alcohol content * * * above the legal limit.” Id. at ¶ 80. The
court found the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to
the prosecution, showed that “reasonable minds could conclude
beyond a reasonable doubt that Filchock's operation of his motor
vehicle under the influence of alcohol was the cause of [the victim's]
death.” Id. at ¶ 81. See also State v. Lennox, 11th Dist. Lake No.
2010-L-104, 2011-Ohio-5103.
Here, a review of the record shows there is no evidence that
[defendant’s] act of driving with a prohibited concentration of cocaine
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 28
in her blood was the direct cause of [her boyfriend’s] death, and
without which, his death would not have occurred. The state
furnished no evidence regarding the potential effects that a
prohibited concentration of cocaine in a person's blood would have
on a person, or on a person's ability to operate a vehicle. Without
such evidence, the state failed to prove that as the proximate result
of [defendant] driving with a prohibited concentration of cocaine in
her blood, [defendant] caused [her boyfriend’s] death. As such, there
was insufficient evidence to prove each element of the crime of
aggravated vehicular homicide. * * * *.
State v. Moore, 6th Dist. Wood No. WD-18-030, 2019-Ohio3705, ¶ 22-27.
{¶72} Thus, in Moore the Sixth District does not rule out a conviction for
aggravated vehicular homicide in which the predicate offense is a per se violation
involving metabolite evidence; instead, it provides a road map for the type of evidence
required by such a case. Moore is distinguishable from the instant case for a number of
reasons. First, as appellee points out, only one of the predicate offenses upon which
Count I rests is wholly dependent upon a per se violation of the marijuana-metabolite
{¶73} Moreover, the instant case is replete with evidence supporting impairment
and causation. As to impairment, appellee presented evidence that appellant had
marijuana and paraphernalia in the vehicle; the OSHP investigation concluded that
appellant was impaired by marijuana at the time of the crash due to observations by Clay
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 29
and the DRE, including appellant’s performance on field sobriety tests, a greenish cast to
his oral cavity, and plant matter between his teeth; and the blood draw and urine test
results were admitted into evidence.
{¶74} As to causation, appellant presented indicators of impairment on dividedattention skills tests; told officers he never saw the warning signs, construction vehicles,
or the workers; and the law enforcement witnesses testified marked-lanes violations are
most common among impaired drivers. The crash reconstruction appellant braked less
than a second before impact, and the lack of evasive action is often explained by
distraction or impairment. The urine and blood samples were taken about five hours after
the crash; Forney explained that although THC might not be detectable in the blood after
this amount of time, it can still affect the brain.
{¶75} Our review of the record of the instant case thus demonstrates a plethora
of evidence that appellant’s act of driving with a prohibited concentration of marijuana
metabolite in his blood was the direct cause of Soto’s death, and without which, his death
would not have occurred. Appellee offered evidence of the potential effects that a
prohibited concentration of marijuana metabolite in a person's blood would have on a
person, or on a person's ability to operate a vehicle. See, Moore, supra at ¶ 27.
{¶76} Appellant further argues the trial court erred in its jury instructions on
proximate cause, but doesn’t point to an error in the instructions and instead points to
alleged flaws in the prosecutor’s closing argument. We note we find no error in the trial
court’s instructions on proximate cause and in light of our ruling upon appellant’s second
assignment of error, infra, we need not reach the merits of appellant’s argument as to
elements of the prosecutor’s closing argument.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 30
{¶77} Appellant’s first assignment of error is overruled.
{¶78} In his second assignment of error, appellant argues he received ineffective
assistance of trial counsel. We agree to the extent that counsel erred in overlooking
disclosure of privileged medical records resulting in the reasonable probability the result
of the proceeding would have been different but for the disclosure.
{¶79} To succeed on a claim of ineffectiveness, a defendant must satisfy a twoprong test. Initially, a defendant must show that trial counsel acted
incompetently. See, Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (1984). In
assessing such claims, “a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct
falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance; that is, the defendant
must overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action
‘might be considered sound trial strategy.’” Id. at 689, citing Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S.
91, 101, 76 S.Ct. 158 (1955). “There are countless ways to provide effective assistance
in any given case. Even the best criminal defense attorneys would not defend a particular
client in the same way.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689. The question is whether counsel
acted “outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance.” Id. at 690.
{¶80} Even if a defendant shows that counsel was incompetent, the defendant
must then satisfy the second prong of the Strickland test. Under this “actual prejudice”
prong, the defendant must show that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. Appellant must show counsel's errors were so
serious as to deprive him of a fair trial, “a trial whose result is reliable.” Id. at 687.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 31
Appellant would meet this standard with a showing “that there is a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in
the outcome.” Id. at 694.
{¶81} In the instant case, appellant asserts he received ineffective assistance on
several grounds. We first address appellant’s final argument, that he received ineffective
assistance of defense trial counsel because his privileged medical records were
disclosed. Upon our review of the trial record, disclosure of appellant’s medical records
from 9 days prior to the crash was effectively a bombshell due to appellant’s statement
that he “will go days without using benzos and then ‘pop’ seven at a time.” We will refer
to the records of the August 20, 2018 visit as appellee’s Exhibit 48.
{¶82} The existence of these records arose at the beginning of cross-examination
of Belloto, when the prosecutor noted Belloto cited “medical records” in his report as one
of 28 items he reviewed, apparently for the first time. Upon being asked if and when
appellant was treated at ProMedica Flower Hospital, defense trial counsel “didn’t recall”
and had to consult appellant to determine the source of the records. From Exhibit 48
itself, we discern the records were generated when appellant went to the hospital seeking
relief for withdrawal symptoms nine days prior to the crash. During this visit, appellant
admitted to addictions to Xanax, Percocet, and alcohol, and that he abuses these
substances; he sought a detox program which was not offered by ProMedica Flower
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 32
{¶83} It is not apparent how Exhibit 48 is not subject to the medical privilege
contained in R.C. 2317.02(B)(1).6 Appellee responds that the privilege does not apply
“[i]n any criminal action concerning any test or the results of any test that determines the
presence or concentration of alcohol, a drug of abuse, a combination of them, a controlled
substance, or a metabolite of a controlled substance in the patient's whole blood, blood
serum or plasma, breath, urine, or other bodily substance at any time relevant to the
criminal offense in question.” R.C. 2317.02(B)(1)(c). It is not apparent that there was any
such testing during the visit on August 20, 2018, which would allow application of the
exception, or would allow for a law enforcement officer to seek such records relevant to
a criminal investigation pursuant to R.C. 2317.02(B)(2).
{¶84} Although the ultimate admissibility of Exhibit 48 is outside the scope of this
opinion, we speculate on its admissibility because defense trial counsel did not raise the
argument of privilege or assert any argument preventing the exhibit’s admission other
than relevance. While the records are certainly relevant on many levels, it is important to
note they are not necessarily admissible. Counsel’s oversight which led to these
questions being addressed on the fly, at trial, upon cross-examination of appellant’s
expert, removed the possibility of arguing the admissibility in a thoughtful, considered
way. The paramount question of the admissibility of Exhibit 48 became conflated with

6 R.C. 2317.02(B)(1) states in pertinent part, “The following persons shall not testify in
certain respects: [a] physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or dentist concerning
a communication made to the physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or dentist
by a patient in that relation or the advice of a physician, advanced practice registered
nurse, or dentist given to a patient, except as otherwise provided in this division, division
(B)(2), and division (B)(3) of this section, and except that, if the patient is deemed by
section 2151.421 of the Revised Code to have waived any testimonial privilege under this
division, the physician or advanced practice registered nurse may be compelled to testify
on the same subject.”
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 33
hearsay exceptions, discovery violations, and rules of evidence regarding experts, to the
exclusion of any discussion of privilege.
{¶85} Part of the mid-trial discussion involved whether Exhibit 48 was
discoverable pursuant to Crim.R.16. A criminal defendant does have a reciprocal
obligation to provide discovery including laboratory and hospital reports, but as appellee
concedes, “nothing in this rule shall be construed to require the defendant to disclose
information that would tend to incriminate that defendant.” Crim.R. 16(H). Moreover,
materials that are subject to privilege are not subject to disclosure pursuant to Crim.R.
{¶86} Part of the basis for the trial court’s admission of Exhibit 48 was Belloto’s
purported reliance upon the records in formulating his expert opinion. Again, although
trial counsel did not argue this point, reliance upon Evid.R. 703 is not a guarantee that
the records would be admissible. Pursuant to Evid.R. 703, facts or data upon which an
expert bases an opinion must be those perceived by him or admitted in evidence at the
hearing. In State v. Solomon, 59 Ohio St.3d 124, 126, 570 N.E.2d 1118 (1991), the Ohio
Supreme Court noted:
Where an expert bases his opinion, in whole or in major part,
on facts or data perceived by him, the requirement of Evid.R. 703
has been satisfied. It is important to note that Evid.R. 703 is written
in the disjunctive. Opinions may be based on perceptions or facts or
data admitted in evidence. (Emphasis in original).
{¶87} It is not evident from the record the extent to which Belloto relied upon the
records of August 20, 2018. Had the records not been overlooked, defense trial counsel
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 34
could and should have raised with the trial court the extent to which appellant’s hospital
records were admissible in the context of Evid.R. 703.
{¶88} In short, it is not evident to us that appellee’s Exhibit 48 was properly
admitted into evidence. What is evident from the record is defense trial counsel’s
flustered reaction to appellee’s questions regarding the origin of the hospital records cited
in Belloto’s report. The oversight by defense trial counsel (and appellee) opened the door
to haphazard admission of the records. Defense trial counsel argued the records weren’t
relevant, but never raised the possibility of privilege or explored any other avenues
preventing their admission. It is beyond the scope of our review to determine the records’
admissibility at retrial, but we note that any of these arguments could have resulted in, at
least, admission of the records for a limited purpose. Instead, Exhibit 48 was freely
admitted and appellee used it as a cudgel throughout the rest of the trial.
{¶89} Turning then to the issue of a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different, we are
compelled to find admission of Exhibit 48 undermines our confidence in the outcome of
the trial. In our examination of the second prong of the Strickland analysis, we agree with
appellant’s characterization that the prosecutor touted appellant’s statements contained
in Exhibit 48 as “linchpin evidence of guilt.” The linchpin of an argument is the piece
holding myriad strands of the argument together, and the vision of appellant “popping
seven benzos at a time” became appellee’s linchpin in arguing appellant was impaired at
the time of the crash.
{¶90} Prior to admission of Exhibit 48, appellee was attempting to tie up several
threads: the OSHP investigation including the DRE found marijuana impairment;
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 35
appellee’s expert testified the marijuana metabolite was inactive but appellant had a
“significant” amount of Alprazolam in his blood belying his statement that he last took
Xanax two days before the crash. If that were true, Forney opined, appellant would have
been potentially in an overdose situation, a possibility seen in new light upon admission
of Exhibit 48.
{¶91} No evidence exists that on the day of the crash, or at any time relevant to
the crash, appellant “popped 7 Benzos” and drove his car. Our review of the record,
however, indicates that upon admission of Exhibit 48, appellee heavily relied upon the
statement. Appellee repeatedly referenced appellant’s purported “popping of seven
Benzos” throughout cross-examination of Belloto. T. 748-749, 752, 754, 758, 760. In
response to appellant’s Crim.R. 29(A) motion at the close of all of the evidence, appellee
argued it was inherently reckless to be on the road * * * “after possibly popping seven
Benzos.” T. 784. Appellee relied upon Exhibit 48 throughout closing argument, arguing
it was “not a coincidence” that a person who was advised to go to detox nine days earlier
and sometimes popped several Benzos at a time caused this crash. T. 796. Appellee
blamed the crash on the fact that appellant was not admitted to a detox facility. Id.
{¶92} And with respect to appellant’s impairment at the time of the crash, appellee
used Exhibit 48 as linchpin evidence of appellant’s guilt as follows:
So I ask you this, when someone gives two different
answers with respect to marijuana use, when someone gives
three different answers with respect to Xanax use, which one
should you believe? * * * *.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 36
Let’s let the toxicology answer that question. Over the
legal limit for marijuana metabolite and blood and urine and
an amount of Alprazolam described by Dr. Forney as a pretty
big number even in the context of people showing impaired
numbers, his is high in that category, Ladies and Gentlemen.
A quantity so high that the lab had to dilute the sample before
they could complete their testing outside of their normal range
that allows for testing.
All of these numbers described by Dr. Forney and the
blood and the analyst are consistent with one statement by
the Defendant; not the statements after the crash, not the
statements as he’s being questioned about his impairment,
not the statements to law enforcement. They are consistent
with one statement in State’s Exhibit 48, and you can confer
to that and that statement is: I go days without taking the
medication and then I pop 7 at a time.
That’s how you get a really big number as Dr. Forney
described it. That’s how you get off the charts outside of the
testable range for the Ohio Columbus Crime Lab, Ladies and
Gentlemen. That is the relevant statement that we have from
the Defendant and it was made nine days earlier.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 37
So science tells us he’s impaired and common sense
tells us he’s impaired, Ladies and Gentlemen. * * * *.
T. 799-800.
{¶93} Additional references to appellant popping 7 Benzos or Xanax at a time and
failing to get into detox are found in closing argument at pages 803 and 807, and in
rebuttal at page 826 and 829.
{¶94} We conclude that the ineffective assistance as to overlooking the August 20
hospital records, leading to unlimited admission of those records, in conjunction with
counsel’s failure to raise the issue of privilege, combine to create such prejudice to
appellant as to require reversal of the convictions and remand for new trial.
Lucas County, Case No. G-4801-CL-201901302-000 38

Outcome: Appellant’s first assignment of error is overruled. Appellant’s second assignment of error is sustained and the judgment of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas is reversed. This matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


Find a Lawyer


Find a Case