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Date: 07-05-2020

Case Style:


Case Number: 2019-CA-71

Judge: Rosemarie Hall


Plaintiff's Attorney: JOHN M. LINTZ, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

Defendant's Attorney:

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{¶ 1} Brandon Beedy appeals from his conviction following a guilty plea to one
count of attempted involuntary manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
{¶ 2} In his sole assignment of error, Beedy contends the trial court erred by
making generalized statements about drug use by defendants to support imposing a
statutory maximum eight-year prison term in his case.
{¶ 3} The record reflects that Beedy was indicted on one count of involuntary
manslaughter and one count of child endangering in connection with the death of his 21-
month-old child. He subsequently entered into a plea agreement that provided for him to
plead guilty to an amended charge of attempted involuntary manslaughter. The
agreement also provided for dismissal of the child-endangering charge and preparation
of a presentence investigation report before sentencing. Finally, the agreement obligated
Beedy to agree to testify against Caitlyn Heinzen, the child’s mother. During an August
14, 2019 plea hearing, the prosecutor read facts into the record establishing that Beedy
and Heinzen left the child unattended in a crib for so long that the child died of
dehydration. (Plea Tr. at 3-4.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court accepted
Beedy’s plea and ordered a presentence investigation.
{¶ 4} The case then proceeded to a September 5, 2019 sentencing hearing for
Beedy and Heinzen, who separately also had pled guilty to attempted involuntary
manslaughter. At the outset of the hearing, defense counsel argued among other things
that Beedy was “battling a pretty bad drug addiction” and had been “battling it for years.”
(Sentencing Tr. at 4.) Counsel noted that Beedy had been involved with a drug-treatment
program. (Id.) Counsel requested community control so that Beedy could continue drug
treatment. (Id. at 5.) When Beedy addressed the court, he acknowledged having a drug
problem and “working on it.” (Id. at 13.). He asked the trial court for a chance to prove
himself. (Id. at 13-14.) After Heinzen and her attorney spoke, the prosecutor noted that
the child had been left alone for an entire day and had died of dehydration. (Id. at 15.)
The prosecutor noted that the child, whose skin was permanently stained with feces, had
been dead for hours before being discovered. (Id. at 15-16.) The prosecutor then asserted
that Beedy and Heinzen had been under the influence of drugs during the time that the
child died of dehydration. (Id. at 16-17.) The prosecutor requested eight-year prison
sentences for both defendants.
{¶ 5} The trial court then addressed both defendants and reasoned in part as
Methamphetamine, THC, cocaine, Fentanyl: These are the
substances that were found to be in the system of Mr. Beedy just two days
after [the child] died.
Methamphetamine, THC, cocaine, opiates, Tramadol and Fentanyl:
These are the substances found to be in the system of Miss Heinzen just
two days after the death of her son.
Both defendants essentially blame their drug problems for this
tragedy, and stood in this courtroom and assured the Court that they’re
ready to capitalize on that one more chance and to do whatever it takes to
overcome this problem; and the point was made that perhaps, finally, they
will be able to overcome this drug problem if the Court puts some kind of
hammer over their head, that being prison time.
That that’s what it will take to finally get them off drugs. The problem
with that argument is they have essentially had a hammer over their heads
since January 12th, knowing that they were responsible for this tragedy.
Knowing they were being investigated, knowing they would
eventually be charged, knowing we would eventually get to today.
So knowing all of that, Mr. Beedy went to McKinley Hall on March the
1st. He was placed in a program; and after March 20th, there was no contact
with McKinley Hall until May 29th, over two months.
On July 10th, the case manager made the effort to contact Mr. Beedy
to find out why he wasn’t coming to treatment. It’s not really important why
he wasn’t going.
The fact of the matter is he wasn’t going. But he was told to go to a
group meeting that night, which he did go to on July 10th; but that was the
last time they heard from him until August 29th.
* * *
So they have had a hammer over their head. Surely they knew the
Court was going to look at any progress they may have made in addressing
their drug program. They knew today would come. That hammer was over
their head, and yet they did not do everything they needed to do.
But today is different; they are going to do everything they need to
do today because there would be, I suppose, two hammers over their head.
Both defendants have told the Court that they are going to have to
live with this the rest of their lives, and that is true; but the key word there is
live. They will be living, unlike [their child].
And not that this would be an excuse but if we were looking at 18- or
19-year-old parents who are virtually kids themselves, again, it certainly
wouldn’t be an excuse; but it could be slightly more understandable. But we
are dealing with a 28 and 34 year old.
It always amazes me that defendants will come into the courtroom
and tell the Court that they have a drug problem, that they need another
chance, and yet we are all told that if we get involved with dangerous drugs
like this, we will end up either in prison or dead.
* * *
Incidentally, possessing and ingesting the drugs I mentioned earlier,
those are all felony offenses. We seem to gloss over that when we talk about
drug problems, but essentially, you were committing felony offenses and
not taking care of your child. This is violating a duty of care, protection and
support to the extreme.
The Court is going to follow the State’s recommendation and impose
a sentence of eight (8) years in the Ohio State Penitentiary on each
defendant. * * *
(Emphasis added.) (Id. at 19-22.)
{¶ 6} On appeal, Beedy challenges the trial court’s imposition of an eight-year
prison sentence. His argument focuses exclusively on the trial court’s reference to the
defendants’ entering the courtroom and claiming to have a drug problem. He reasons that
the italicized paragraph quoted above near the end of the trial court’s remarks
demonstrated judicial bias. His entire substantive argument is as follows: “This
generalizing statement about all defendants that have drug issues that come into the trial
court showed that the court had a bias against his case prior to Mr. Beedy pleading guilty
and regardless of the underlying facts, resulting in the imposition of the eight year
sentence. Also, this case did not involve an act of violence, which the trial court noted.
Consequently, the sentence is contrary to law under R.C. 2953.08(G)(2).” (Appellant’s
brief at 7.)
{¶ 7} Upon review, we find Beedy’s assignment of error to be unpersuasive. Under
R.C. 2953.08(G)(2), we may vacate or modify a felony sentence if we find by clear and
convincing evidence that the record does not support the sentence or the sentence is
otherwise contrary to law. State v. Damiano, 2d Dist. Champaign No. 2017-CA-31, 2018-
Ohio-4761, ¶ 9 (citing additional cases). Beedy asserts that his eight-year sentence is
contrary to law because the trial court’s remarks exhibited improper judicial bias against
{¶ 8} We recognize that “a judicial bias claim may be interpreted ‘as an argument
that [the defendant’s] sentence is contrary to law based on a due process violation.’ ”
State v. Johnson, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 107528, 2019-Ohio-4668, ¶ 26, quoting State
v. Frazier, 2017-Ohio-8307, 98 N.E.3d 1291, ¶ 15 (8th Dist.). We also note, however, that
a judge is presumed unbiased and that “the appearance of bias must be compelling in
order to overcome the presumption.” Id., quoting State v. Filous, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No.
104287, 2016-Ohio-8312, ¶ 14.
{¶ 9} Here the challenged comment fails to establish impermissible judicial bias.
The trial court engaged in a lengthy explanation of why it was unpersuaded by Beedy’s
claim that he would change his ways and get off of drugs if the trial court would allow him
to pursue drug treatment instead of sending him to prison. As set forth above, near the
end of its remarks, the trial court added: “It always amazes me that defendants will come
into the courtroom and tell the Court that they have a drug problem, that they need another
chance, and yet we are all told that if we get involved with dangerous drugs like this, we
will end up either in prison or dead.” (Sentencing Tr. at 22.).
{¶ 10} We see absolutely nothing in this comment by the trial court that is indicative
of impermissible judicial bias. Beedy characterizes the trial court’s comment as an
improper generalized statement about all defendants who appear in court with drug
problems. It is clear, however, that the trial court was including Beedy and Heinzen within
that group of defendants. Although the trial court couched its comment broadly, the
remark undeniably was directed at Beedy and his specific circumstances. Regardless,
we simply are unpersuaded that there was anything improper about the remark,
particularly when read in the context of the trial court’s full statements. Accordingly, we
overrule Beedy’s assignment of error.

Outcome: The judgment of the Clark County Common Pleas Court is affirmed.

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