Death penalty upheld in prison murder at Warren Correctional

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the death penalty and conviction in the fatal attack of an inmate in 2019 at the Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon.

The court unanimously upheld Victoria Drain’s conviction for aggravated murder with Justice Jennifer Brunner dissenting on the death penalty, according to Court Ohio News.

Drain was found guilty of killing Christopher M. Richardson, 29.

While the appeal was pending, Drain legally changed her name from Joel Drain, according to court documents. However, Drain is listed as Joel M. Drain by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction and is incarcerated in the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, records show.

Drain invited Richardson to her cell on April 13, 2019, to get high and then beat him with a fan motor, stabbed him with a pencil and strangled him, according to Court News Ohio. Richardson died of his injuries two days later at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. He was serving a four-year sentence for aggravated arson out of Delaware County.

Drain was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder and possessing a deadly weapon. She initially pleaded not guilty, but changed her plea to no contest on May 18, 2020, according to court documents. A three-judge panel found Drain guilty and she was sentenced to death. Death sentences receive an automatic appeal.

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

In her opinion, Justice Sharon L. Kennedy wrote the court opposed all 16 of Drain’s objections.

“We conclude that although significant mitigating factors exist, the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt,” Kennedy wrote. “We further conclude that the death sentence is appropriate and proportionate. Accordingly, we affirm Drain’s death sentence.”

Among Drain’s objections was that her defense team was ineffective because “they failed to begin the mitigation investigation within ‘a reasonable time,’ ‘as soon as they were appointed to the case,’ or ‘immediately,’” according to court documents.

Kennedy responded Drain failed to say anything that showed “it would have been possible for the mitigation specialist to begin the interviews any sooner than she did.”

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

“Finally, even if counsel’s investigation were deficient, a defendant who ‘prevented counsel from presenting the mitigating evidence available to them’ may not claim prejudice,” Kennedy wrote.

However, Brunner claimed in an opinion dissenting to the death penalty that Drain’s attorneys “provided ineffective assistance,” according to court records.

“If her attorneys had presented that evidence and if they had conducted an adequate investigation for additional evidence, there is a reasonable likelihood that she would have been spared a death sentence,” Brunner wrote.

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