Motion to suppress denied, man charged with 2 murders gets trial date

A man charged in connection to two homicides that took place hours apart and about 100 feet away from each other had an attempt to suppress evidence denied in the case and is due back in court next year for trial.

Christopher Smith, 29, is scheduled in court on Jan. 21 for a final pretrial hearing and on Feb. 8 for a trial, according to court records. Smith is charged in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court with murder, felonious assault and having weapons under disability. He’s pleaded not guilty in the case.

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Prosecutors said Smith fired rounds from a handgun at two men around 3 a.m. Dec. 5 outside Rick’s Jazz Lab on Lakeview Avenue in Dayton. He fatally shot 34-year-old Brandon Harris and injured the other man during the incident, the prosecutor’s office said.

“Then, at approximately 10:10 a.m., 34-year-old Clarence Brown III was fatally shot outside the Save Food Super Market on Germantown Street,” prosecutors said in a previous release. “The second shooting occurred approximately 100 feet from the first shooting, as the properties are adjacent to each other.”

The prosecutor’s office said that multiple witnesses were interviewed, surveillance video was obtained and ballistic information was compared to identify Smith as the shooter. But it was some of this evidence that the defense sought to keep from being heard during trial.

In a decision overruling the defense’s attempt, Judge Gregory Singer says the defense argued that a detective was not a “blind administrator” because he administered the same photo spread to three different witnesses and that law enforcement lacked probable cause to obtain a search warrant for a Trotwood home that was searched in connection to the case.

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Ohio law requires law enforcement to use an official who does not know the identity of the suspect when conducting photo or live lineups, Singer said in his decision. The judge said the detective could conduct multiple lineups and still follow the law.

“…Ohio courts have made clear that a witness' selection from a line-up does not automatically confer knowledge of who the suspect is such that the administrator is no longer “blind” within the meaning (of the law),” the judge wrote. “Additionally, in the first line-up, the defendant was identified as being present at the scene, but specifically as not the shooter.”

Also, the judge said law enforcement did have probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the Trotwood home.

“In the instant case, an FBI agent notified detectives that an informant disclosed that defendant was the possible shooter,” the judge wrote. “Upon learning this information, detectives created a photographic line-up, and the defendant was positively identified as the shooter by a witness. Therefore, the court concludes there was substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed."

Smith is incarcerated at the Montgomery County Jail on $1 million bond.

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