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Appeals court upholds life sentence for convicted killer, rapist

Ohio's 6th District Court of Appeals on Friday upheld the highly unusual life-without-parole sentence given to a Toledo juvenile convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her brother.

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In this file photo, then 17-year-old Devonte Brown wipes away a tear during his sentencing in front of Judge Ian English in Lucas County Common Pleas on July 21, 2016.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
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Devonte Brown, who is now 18, was just 16 when he broke into the home of Joscelyn Jones, 16, raped and stabbed her to death, and then fatally stabbed Johnny Jones, 14. Brown also stabbed the siblings' mother, Josianne Thomas, 38, but she survived.

Certified to stand trial as an adult, Brown entered Alford pleas — not admitting guilt — to two counts of aggravated murder and one count each of attempted murder, rape, kidnapping, and failure to comply with the order of a police officer. Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ian English found him guilty and, in July, 2016, sentenced him to the maximum penalty of life without the possibility of parole for each of the aggravated murders.

Brown appealed his sentence, which the U.S. Supreme Court has held should be imposed on juveniles only in the rarest instances and only after the court has carefully considered the child's background and the circumstances of the crime, among other factors.

In a 3-0 decision written by Judge Arlene Singer and affirmed by Judges James Jensen and Christine Mayle, the appeals court upheld Brown's sentence, finding that Brown's youth had been “extensively argued, considered, balanced, and weighed.”

Judge Singer cited Judge English's statements at the sentencing hearing in which he said Brown's violent rampage was not a crime of passion, but premeditated. His offenses, Judge English said, “were depraved. They were monstrous. These were crimes of a nature not previously seen in this community.”

The appeals court found that Brown's case was rare and uncommon “due to the evil disregard for life [Brown] exhibited when he intentionally ended two lives and attempted to end another.”

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

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