COLUMBUS - The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday upheld the death sentence of Grady L. Brinkley, 38, for killing his girlfriend as part of a plot to recover money from a diner robbery two months earlier and flee to Chicago.
In a 6-1 ruling, the court refused to accept the argument that Brinkley killed Shantae Smith, 18, of Toledo on Jan. 7, 2000, because he was enraged that she was seeing someone else. His attorney had argued that the prosecution improperly linked the armed robbery of Rick's City Diner on Monroe Street, where Brinkley worked. The difference in motives could mean the difference between life in prison and execution.
"The evidence firmly established that Brinkley had intended to escape trial and punishment for the City Diner robbery," wrote Justice Maureen O'Connor. "Smith posted bail at Brinkley's direction. Then, Brinkley did not show up for his pretrial court hearing on Jan. 6 , but instead fled to Chicago on Jan. 7. Thus, the jury could reasonably infer that Brinkley murdered and robbed Smith to facilitate his flight from prosecution for the City Diner robbery."
Justice Paul Pfeifer, the sole dissenting vote, wrote that he had no doubt Brinkley "heinously murdered his girlfriend." But he said the prosecution did not demonstrate that it was linked to the old robbery.
"That both happened, and that they could be related, does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brinkley killed Smith to escape detection, arrest, or punishment for another offense," he wrote.
Jeffrey Gamso, Brinkley's attorney, said it was unclear whether he would ask the court to reconsider the case or seek an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We think the evidence obviously did link the robbery with her murder," said Brenda Majdalani, assistant Lucas County prosecutor. "In fact, he was shown to have been the person trying to use her ATM card at the bus station. It was after the time of death the coroner had established. He was wearing her coat, and he made statements when arrested that confirmed that action. He was the murderer. It couldn't have been anyone else."