Imran Ashgar and Quinten Prater

Fatalities: Imran Ashgar, 34, & Quinten Prater, 22

Injuries: James Norvet, 21, & William Rudd, 39

Murderer: Devonere Simmonds, 17

Crime dates: July 2013

Location: Central Ohio

Summary of the crimes

Simmonds went on a massive violent crime spree in the summer of 2013. During the spree, he shot and killed Quinten Prater during a robbery. A couple days later, he shot and killed Imran Ashgar during another robbery. He also shot and injured James Norvet and William Rudd.

Details

Prior to the 2013 crime spree, Simonds had an extensive criminal history.

A Montgomery County Juvenile Court official said Simmonds had been locked up and put on probation for an aggravated robbery and for carrying a concealed weapon. He was first put on probation in Montgomery County in May of 2012 and most recently was locked up from February to May of this year after his case was transferred to Franklin County.

Teen linked to Columbus crimes has Dayton criminal past

In July 2013 17-year-old Simmonds went on a massive crime spree that left two people injured and two people dead. On July 21, he shot James Norvet and Quinten Porter, injuring James and killing Quintin.

In an opening statement on Tuesday, Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Geraghty told the jury that Prater, carrying a backpack containing marijuana, was on the sidewalk talking to Simmonds and the accomplice while Norvet sat at the wheel of a car parked on the street.

She said Simmonds got in the back seat of the car and shot Norvet in the back of the head with a handgun, then got out and pursued Prater with the accomplice. It is unclear which of them used a shotgun to shoot Prater in the back of his head. Simmonds and the accomplice ran away after taking items from both victims, she said.

Norvet, 21 at the time, recovered from the shooting but still carries the bullet in his head.

Columbus Dispatch

It didn’t stop there. On July 24, Simmonds, along with Nathaniel Brunner, and Darrel Durham, robbed the Convenience Plus Food Mart in Columbus. Imran Ashgar, a store clerk who was working behind the counter, was shot and killed.

Simmonds basically executed the store clerk by shooting him in the eye once and then returning to shoot the clerk in the head a second time after the clerk briefly survived the first shot.

State v. Simmonds, 2015-Ohio-4460

The violence continued. On July 27 Simmonds and Brunner were driving on I-70 when their car broke down. They went to a truck stop in London where they found William Rudd, who was putting gas in his vehicle. They attempted to murder William by shooting him in the face. The assailants then robbed him of his truck and fled. William miraculously survived.

Simmonds was arrested and charged. In December of 2014 he was convicted of murdering Imran and attempting to murder William. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 48 years.

As it relates to the Ashgar killing, the jury found Simmonds guilty of aggravated robbery, aggravated murder and murder, all with firearm specifications. As it relates to the Rudd shooting, the jury found Simmonds guilty of aggravated robbery, attempted murder, and felonious assault, all with firearm specifications. The trial court separately found Simmonds guilty of having a weapon while under disability.

At sentencing, Simmonds’s counsel submitted and discussed two psychological reports explaining Simmonds’s low intellectual functioning, emotional immaturity, vulnerability, drug use, family background, and negative influences, including his father, and she also discussed relevant Supreme Court precedent addressing juvenile offenders and intellectual disabilities. The trial court sentenced Simmonds to LWOP for the aggravated murder of Ashgar, to be served consecutively to a total of 48 years on the other counts and specifications.

MEMORANDUM OF PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE OPPOSING JURISDICTION

In July 2015, the trial for the murder of Quinten and the attempted murder of James began. After a half day of testimony, Simmonds decided to plead guilty. He was sentenced to 15 years to life for the murder along with 11 years for the attempted murder to be served concurrently. During sentencing James told the judge: “I still don’t know exactly why this happened or what caused somebody to do that. I still have a bullet in me that I’m going to have to live with the rest of my life now.”

Simmonds appealed to Ohio’s Tenth District Court of Appeals. He argued, among other things, that his LWOP sentence was cruel and unusual and violated the Eighth Amendment. The court upheld his conviction and sentence.

{¶ 28} Nothing in the record before us supports an argument that a life sentence
for Simmonds constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court of Ohio has made clear the constitutionality of a sentence of life without parole: “As applied to a juvenile found guilty of aggravated murder under R.C. 2929.03(A), then, Ohio’s sentencing scheme does not fall afoul of [Miller v. Alabama, _ U.S. , 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012)], because the sentence of life without parole is discretionary. Nor is our criminal procedure flawed under [Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010)] and Miller by failing to take into account that a defendant is a youthful offender.” State v. Long, 2014-Ohio-849,
¶ 19. A defendant’s youth is a mitigating factor for a court to consider when sentencing. Long at ¶ 19. The trial court was made well aware of Simmonds’ youth and even noted his youth and emotional immaturity at sentencing. (R. 187, Tr. 828.)
{¶ 29} Not many years ago, many states were still executing juveniles who
committed homicides before they turned 18. The case which barred such executions, Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), changed that, but gave no indication that a life sentence for a juvenile who committed such crimes constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

State v. Simmonds, 2015-Ohio-4460

In 2015 Simmonds filed a petition for post-conviction relief with the trial court. He argued that his trial lawyers were ineffective and failed to appropriately prepare for and present evidence of mitigating circumstances during sentencing. The trial court denied the petition, finding that counsel were not deficient and that Simmonds failed to show prejudice. The Tenth District Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

{¶ 25} Simmonds argues that his trial counsel failed to investigate and present
appropriate evidence of his lack of maturity, the effect of negative influences on his life, and his potential for rehabilitation through experience and aging. (Simmonds Brief at 20-26.) Had his counsel not failed to prepare and present appropriate information, asserts Simmonds, there is a reasonable probability that he would not have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Id. The State counters, in arguments that roughly parallel the trial court’s decision, that Simmonds’ attorneys did present information on those topics and that Simmonds’ offenses were so egregious that no amount of information or testimony on those topics would have altered the result. (State Brief at 45-53, 56-59.)


{¶ 26} Even if we were to assume that counsel’s mitigation presentation was
deficient to the constitutionally significant degree required by Strickland, we are not convinced that the other element of Strickland can be met in this case. Simmonds, even before these events, had a startlingly voluminous criminal history for someone of his age, including assault, carrying a concealed weapon, burglary, and aggravated burglary. (Davis Aff. at ¶ 23, 35.) During the pendency of the action, Simmonds was transferred to the Franklin County Jail for acts that included physically attacking and spitting on staff members of the youth detention facility, wiping feces on the window of his cell to prevent
observation, and making a weapon out of a sock and piece of concrete. Id. at ¶ 24; Jan. 13, 2014 Order Granting Transfer of Custody 13JU-10445 at 2.


{¶ 27} The crimes Simmonds committed are more than disturbing. In the space of six days, he point blank shot four people in the head for no reason other than they had something he wanted. When Simmonds robbed Ashgar, he shot him in the eye. When Ashgar did not die, Simmonds returned and without provocation delivered a cold, fatal shot to Ashgar’s head. When two victims survived (because Simmonds thought they were dead), Simmonds was at least relieved of an indictment for four aggravated murders; instead it was two. Simmonds’ behavior is so far down the scale of acceptable social behavior that the prospect of improvement upon maturity is exceedingly remote. It is not unreasonable to find that Simmonds belongs to a class of offenders that the United States Supreme Court has termed “the rarest of juvenile offenders, [] whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.” Montgomery at 734. We are not convinced that any amount of mitigation of the sort proposed by the postconviction petition and supporting materials would have stood a reasonable probability of changing Simmonds’ sentence. Having found that Simmonds cannot prove he was prejudiced by his counsel’s performance, we need not reach the issue of determining whether Simmonds’ counsel “made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel’ guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Strickland at 687. See also Bradley at 143, quoting Strickland at 697.

{¶ 29} Juvenile offenders facing life without parole are similar to adult offenders facing the death penalty in some respects and, therefore, care is required before imposing the ultimate sanction on them. Under the existing statutory scheme, a trial court is required to consider the youth of the offender and it must determine that the “crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility” before imposing life without parole. Montgomery; Long at paragraphs one and two of the syllabus. No law in existence in Ohio requires an identical level of mitigation as might be presented in an adult death penalty case, and it is not per se prejudicial for a trial court to not afford such procedures. In Simmonds’ cases, his actions were of such a serious nature that he does not appear to have prospects for significant or lasting rehabilitation. His crimes could well be described as reflecting permanent incorrigibility. Simmonds’ counsel’s opportunity to present a more robust picture of mitigation to the trial court at sentencing would not likely have yielded a different result.

State v. Simmonds, 2017-Ohio-2739

Simmonds then appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Court declined to hear his case. He then filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. SCOTUS also declined to hear the case. Simmonds is currently incarcerated at the Ohio State Penitentiary, a supermax prison.

Written by an NOVJM volunteer.

Sources

Teen linked to Columbus crimes has Dayton criminal past

MEMORANDUM OF PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE OPPOSING JURISDICTION

Man pleads guilty to a second murder from 2013 spree by the Columbus Dispatch

JUVENILE SUSPECT IN TWO COLUMBUS MURDERS AND MADISON COUNTY TRAVELCENTERS OF AMERICA CRIME SPREE INDICTED

State v. Simmonds, 2015-Ohio-4460

State v. Simmonds, 2017 Ohio 2739

https://appgateway.drc.ohio.gov/OffenderSearch/Search/Details/A717277

Police Investigate Deadly Shooting At Columbus Carryout