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Law School Case Brief

State v. Brown - 38 Ohio St. 3d 305, 528 N.E.2d 523 (1988)


A reviewing court will not reverse a jury verdict where there is substantial evidence upon which a jury could reasonably conclude that all of the elements of an offense are proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, in reviewing a claim that a jury verdict is against the weight of the evidence or that the evidence is insufficient, a reviewing court's duty is to review the record to determine whether there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. However, where circumstantial evidence alone is relied upon to prove an element essential to a finding of guilt, it must be consistent only with the theory of guilt and irreconcilable with any reasonable theory of innocence. Therefore, if the evidence in a circumstantial evidence case is as consistent with a theory of innocence as with guilt, the doubt must be resolved in favor of the theory of innocence. 


Defendant Debra Brown was convicted in Ohio state court of aggravated murder and the specifications of multiple murders and felony-murder. She was sentenced to death. She appealed.


Were Brown's constitutional and statutory rights violated when the state prosecuted her for aggravated murder?




On appeal, the state supreme court rejected Brown's contention that the indictment against her was defective because the grand jury was composed of only 9 people, instead of 15. The court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying her motions for joint trial with her co-defendant, for a mistrial, or for a change of venue. Additionally, the trial court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court's refusal to sequester potential jurors during voir dire. The court determined that Brown's right to counsel was not violated where she initiated a new colloquy with the police. Furthermore, her right to a fair trial was not violated by the refusal to suppress identification testimony and physical evidence or to exclude evidence that she engaged in a course of conduct involving the purpose to kill two or more persons. The court decided that admission of Brown's videotaped testimony given at an earlier trial did not violate her self-incrimination privilege. Brown's challenges to the prosecutor's closing argument, to the jury instructions, and to the death penalty lacked merit. The court overruled any remaining assignments of error.

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