YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The Seventh District Court of Appeals last week upheld the conviction of a man convicted of a 2018 murder on the East Side while also ruling on the issue of whether or not evidence obtained when a key was unused without a warrant to unlock a door is without merit.

The court turned down the conviction of Stephon Hopkins, 27, who was sentenced Dec. 6, 2021, to 35 years to life in prison for the Nov. 18, 2018, murder of Christopher Jackson, 21, of Warren.

Jackson was found in a car on Bennington Avenue on the East Side. Hopkins and a second defendant were convicted by a jury Nov. 13, 2021, in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court following a trial before Judge Anthony D’Apolito.

A third defendant had been convicted earlier in the year following a bench trial before Judge D’Apolito.

Testimony during the trial showed that the three defendants were in the back seat of a car Jackson was in when they fired several shots, killing Jackson and wounding another man who survived.

Prosecutors never gave a motive during the trial.

Hopkins appealed, saying his conviction and sentence should be overturned because investigators used a key they found on a keychain in the car where Jackson was killed to unlock his door without a warrant, although no one went inside. Youngstown Police Detective Sgt. Michael Lambert used the key to see if it was the right one but did not enter.

In its ruling, the appeals court said Hopkins’ Fourth Amendment rights were not violated because the surviving victim told investigators Hopkins was in the backseat of the car; Hopkins; DNA was on the keychain; Hopkins had a picture of himself on his Facebook account posing with the chain; and Hopkins was heard on a call from the county jail telling someone to delete the photo on his Facebook page.

The appeals court conceded that unlocking a door with a key to identify a suspect is a search, but called it a “minimal intrusion” that did not violate Hopkins’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The appeals court also ruled three other claims by Hopkins without merit.

Hopkins is also serving a prison sentence for an unrelated murder in July 2018, also on the East Side. His sentence in the Jackson is consecutive to that sentence.