Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Friday asked the Ohio Supreme Court to reinstate the murder conviction against a Columbus Far East Side man in connection with the fatal 2016 shooting of a Reynoldsburg man.
The 10th District (Franklin County) Court of Appeals in August overturned a jury's 2019 conviction of Damon Taylor on a murder with a gun specification in the shooting death of 18-year-old Enrique Straughter on procedural grounds and returned the case to Franklin County Juvenile Court for further consideration. Taylor had been sentenced to 15 years to life plus another three years for a gun specification consecutive to the murder sentence.
Taylor, who was a 17-year-old juvenile at the time of the shooting but is now 23, was acquitted by a Common Pleas Court jury of the more serious charge of aggravated murder, which must be premeditated. Instead, the jury found that Taylor killed Straughter just outside the apartment where the victim lived on the 2100 block of Lavenham Road in Reynoldsburg while committing a felonious assault.
Reynoldsburg police had been called to the scene shortly after midnight on April 15, 2016 on a report of two young males arguing - court records say Taylor thought Straughter had taken his chain - then multiple gunshots were heard. Investigators identified Taylor as a suspect after they found a key fob for his mother's car, which Taylor took without permission and was found abandoned outside Straughter's apartment, near the victim's body.
Officers also found a piece of a handgun at the scene that contained Taylor's DNA and Straughter's blood. A Smith & Wesson MP40 semiautomatic pistol belonging to Taylor's stepfather, Michael Jackson, had been inside his mother's car when Taylor took it, court records state.
The case against Taylor began in juvenile court, but he was eventually tried as an adult in Franklin County Common Pleas court.
Police had no witnesses to the crime itself, but two people testified that Taylor admitted in prison that he was involved in the murder. Both witnesses testified in exchange for a plea deal.
The 10th District Court of Appeals ruled that Taylor was ultimately convicted of a crime separate from the initial charge in juvenile court, and said the case should not have been moved to adult court.
In appealing that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, Tyack and Yost cited court precedent that says category one offenses by juveniles such as murder must be bound over to an adult court. In addition, they noted that Taylor was five days short of being 18 and an adult at the time of the shooting.
It is not clear when the Ohio Supreme Court will rule on the case.
Straughter, a Reynoldsburg High School senior at the time of the shooting, enjoyed playing basketball and was employed by a landscaping company. According to his obituary, he was survived by mothers Linda Straughter and Jaime Straughter, father Dontae Ball, brothers Marquise Ball and Sincere James, sisters Martae Ball and Logan Ball, and other relatives.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Supreme Court asked to reinstate Reynoldsburg murder conviction