YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A change in the self-defense law may have led to a grand jury’s decision to no bill a suspect in a fatal Youngstown bar shooting.
Aaron Clinkscale, 27, was arraigned in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday. He is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in relation to the Feb. 4 shooting that killed 29-year-old Ra’mon Cooper in the parking lot of Club Savo.
Judge Anthony D’Apolito continued Clinkscale’s $500,000 bond. The case is set for an April 20 trial before Judge Anthony Donofrio.
Police said Cooper and Clinkscale got in an argument inside the bar and were kicked out by security. The two continued fighting outside where Cooper was shot, police said. He crawled across South Avenue and died.
Both men had guns, police said.
Assistant Prosecutor Michael Yacovone said he could not speculate on why the grand jury refused to indict Clinkscale for murder, but he did say that a change in the state’s self-defense law could have been a factor in the grand jury’s decision.
Before the change, it was up to a defendant to prove a claim he was acting in self-defense. Under the change, prosecutors must now prove a defendant acted in self-defense.
Youngstown police chief of detectives Capt. Brad Blackburn said he knew there could be a self-defense claim by Clinkscale because video showed Cooper shooting at him, but he added that detectives presented the case with the evidence they had.
“We knew going into it, it would be an issue, but we have to put together the case and let the grand jury make that decision,” Blackburn said.
Clinkscale’s attorney, Tony Meranto, said he watched the video and thinks the grand jury made the right decision.
Before the change, Yacovone said a defense attorney would basically agree with the facts he would present to a jury but would offer an explanation for why his client acted the way they did.
Now, Yacovone said defense attorneys can challenge every aspect of his case. He has to try to explain to jurors the actions of both the victim and defendant while presenting his case.
“I almost have to get into the minds of both the defendant and the victim,” Yacovone said.
Meranto asked Judge D’Apolito to modify his client’s bond, saying that it was set when he was originally charged with murder and not based on the charge he was indicted for.
Judge D’Apolito said he understood the argument but he deferred the matter of bond to Judge Donofrio.
Clinkscale is not allowed to have a gun because of a 2013 conviction in common pleas court on a drug charge.
Yacovone said the murder charge can be presented to a grand jury again if more evidence in the case comes up.