Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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Appeals court affirms ruling in Oregon man's conviction for fatal DUI crash

A ruling by Ohio's 6th District Court of Appeals on Friday could mean that an Oregon drunk driver will go to prison more than two years after the fatal motorcycle crash for which he was convicted.

Cory Speelman, 28, was sentenced in November, 2016 to five years in prison and given a lifetime driver's license suspension after he pleaded no contest to aggravated vehicular homicide for causing the Aug. 21, 2015 death of Marissa Presnell, 19, of Temperance.

After imposing the prison term, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Myron Duhart allowed Speelman to remain free on bond while he appealed the court's denial of a motion to suppress the blood draw taken from Speelman the night of the crash.

Investigators said Speelman was traveling at more than 100 mph just before 3 a.m. when he smashed into the rear of a car ahead of him on I-75 near Alexis Road in North Toledo. Ms. Presnell was ejected from the motorcycle and thrown some 450 feet off the freeway. Speelman was critically injured but survived.

In a 3-0 ruling, the appeals court upheld Judge Duhart's finding that the blood draw was constitutional, even though Speelman was unconscious and unable to give consent, and police had not obtained a search warrant.

Under Ohio law, an unconscious motorist gives “implied consent” to a blood draw when police have reasonable cause to believe that person was driving under the influence.

Officers responding to the crash testified that Speelman was unconscious, unresponsive, and incapable of communication. He had severe injuries to his face and leg, needed immediate medical attention, and exhibited a strong odor of alcohol, they said.

“We find that the record of evidence reflects ample competent, credible evidence in support of the disputed trial-court motion to suppress determination,” Judge Thomas Osowik wrote in a decision that was joined by Judges Mark Pietrykowski and James Jensen. “The record contains a wealth of probable-cause evidence suggesting that [Speelman] had been unlawfully driving the motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol.”

Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division of the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office, was pleased with the ruling.

“We will be asking that [Speelman's] bond be revoked since the appeals court has rendered its decision,” Mr. Lingo said.

Defense attorney Jerome Phillips said he would speak with Speelman about appealing the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. He maintains that the blood draw violated his client's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

“What the appeals court basically is saying is that implied consent in Ohio is now an exception to the Fourth Amendment,” Mr. Phillips said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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