Court of Appeals affirms vehicular homicide conviction


Staff Report



POMEROY —The conviction of a Meigs County man on charges including aggravated vehicular homicide has been affirmed by the Fourth District Court of Appeals.

Meigs County Prosecuting Attorney James K. Stanley states that on Feb. 12, the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court in the State’s case against Richard Barnhart, Jr.

In January 2018, Barnhart was convicted of two counts of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, each a felony of the first degree, Vehicular Manslaughter, a misdemeanor of the first degree, and two counts of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI), each a felony of the fourth degree. The charges stemmed from a traffic crash that occurred on Jan. 13, 2017, along State Route 143 at the bottom of Horner Hill. Barnhart was operating the crashed vehicle with a suspended license and with a blood-alcohol level of .269, which was in excess of three times the legal limit in the State of Ohio. Barnhart was partially ejected and suffered injury as a result of the crash. Barnhart’s passenger was ejected from the vehicle and died from injuries suffered as a result of the crash.

Prior to trial, Barnhart filed a motion to suppress that requested the trial court to suppress the State’s evidence relating to his blood alcohol content at the time of the crash. After a hearing and supplemental briefing, the trial court denied the motion to suppress.

At trial, Barnhart argued that he was not the operator of the vehicle, and even if he was the operator of the vehicle, he did not cause the crash. The State presented evidence that Barnhart was the operator of the vehicle, that Barnhart caused the crash, and that Barnhart’s passenger died as a result of the crash. After two days of testimony, the jury convicted Barnhart of all counts. Meigs County Court of Common Pleas Judge I. Carson Crow sentenced Barnhart to 14 years in prison.

Following trial, Barnhart field a motion for a new trial, claiming newly discovered evidence showed that he was not guilty of the offenses. After a hearing and supplemental briefing, the trial court denied the motion for a new trial.

On Appeal, Barnhart argued that the trial court erred by failing to grant a new trial, that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress, that the guilty verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that Barnhart’s trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel in regards to obtaining an affidavit in support of a motion for a new trial. The State submitted a brief in opposition, and oral argument was held before the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals in Chillicothe, Ohio.

In the appellate court’s 65-page decision, the court overruled each of Barnhart’s assignments of error and affirmed the decision of the trial court. The appellate court found that that the trial court did not err by not granting a new trial, that the trial court did not err by denying Barnhart’s motion to suppress, that the guilty verdict was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that Barnhart’s trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance of counsel in regards to obtaining an affidavit in support of a motion for a new trial. Barnhart remains in prison, and his term does not expire until December 2031.

“I am pleased with the Fourth District’s decision,” Stanley said. “This affirms the jury’s verdict, and justice can continue to be done for the victim.”

Stanley thanked the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, the Rutland Volunteer Fire Department, Meigs EMS, the coroner, and the staff at the Meigs County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Meigs County Victim Assistance Program for their assistance in this matter.

Information from the Meigs County Prosecutor’s Office.

Staff Report