Appeals court upholds conviction in Youngstown murder case from 2018

Local News
Brian Donlow, indicted on an aggravated murder charge for a Youngstown shooting.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The 7th District Court of Appeals this week has upheld the conviction of one of two men for a 2018 murder at an east side apartment complex.

The appeals court denied the appeal of Brian Donlow, 30, who appealed his convictions of murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm for the June 19, 2018, shooting death of Brandon Wylie, 30, who was shot to death in the Plaza View apartment complex.

Donlow was convicted in February 2020 by a jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Judge Anthony D’Apolito sentenced Donlow to 21 years to life in prison.

A co-defendant, Stephon Hopkins, 23, was also convicted in Wylie’s death by the same jury. He received the same sentence as Donlow and also appealed his conviction.

Donlow appealed on the grounds that there was not evidence to convict him and that a key piece of testimony, when a detective not even assigned to his case identified him on a surveillance video by the way he talked and looked, should not have been allowed to be heard by a jury.

During the trial Detective Sgt. Michael Lambert, who was not on the team investigating the case, testified for the prosecution and said he was able to identify Donlow from the video because he knew how he walked and because of his hairstyle. Lambert said he had dealings with Donlow before.

The appeals court wrote that Lambert’s testimony was permissible because he was familiar with the defendant from past dealings with him. The court also noted that Lambert could have gone into greater detail about how he knew Donlow, but the trial court would not allow it because it would have been detrimental to the defendant.

Donlow also claimed that there was not enough evidence to convict him based on the fact that jurors found him not guilty of aggravated murder, which means they found he did not engage in any prior planning to kill Wylie.

But the appeals court said there was enough evidence that a reasonable person could have concluded that two people shot Wylie. The court said this could be inferred because of the position of the shell casings police collected as well as the trajectory of the multiple gunshot wounds Wylie suffered.

Hearing the case for the court were Appellate Judges Gene Donofrio, Carol Ann Robb and Cheryl L. Waite.

Hopkins’ appeal has yet to be decided.

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