Murder retrial starts Tuesday for man convicted in woman’s death who represented himself

A new murder trial starts Tuesday for a Dayton man who was convicted after he represented himself in the 2017 death of a woman who was babysitting when she was hit by gunfire.

Chuckie Lee, 44, had been sentenced to 61 years in prison after a Montgomery County jury nearly six years ago found him guilty of murder, felonious assault and gun charges. An appeals court has since overturned Lee’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals in Dayton ruled that the trial court erred because Lee’s waiver of his right to counsel was not valid.

Attorney Carl Goraleski was appointed to represent him for his new trial. A message was left with him seeking comment.

Credit: Montgomery County Jail

Credit: Montgomery County Jail

Lee is accused of fatally shooting 20-year-old Taylor Brandenburg, who stepped outside her cousin’s Huffman Avenue house to talk to a friend on March 12, 2017, when she was struck by two bullets of a 37-bullet barrage.

Lee testified during his first trial that he did fire the fatal shots that killed Brandenburg. However, he didn’t intend to kill her with his Glock — with a 50-round drum — because he was aiming at Brandenburg’s cousin Ricky Mayes Jr., whose children she was babysitting at his house.

Lee said Mayes had provoked him at The Glass Hat bar, which led to a fight before he and his party left. Lee and co-defendant Evans Cassell III retrieved guns from a storage facility, and Lee’s then-girlfriend Kara Parisi-King knew where Mayes lived and led them there.

In 2018, Evans was sentenced to 18 years to life, and Parisi-King to 15 years to life in prison for their roles in Brandenburg’s death.

Lee also was convicted and sentenced later in 2018, but the appeals court vacated his conviction and granted him a new trial nearly three years ago.

“We cannot conclude that Lee wanted to represent himself without a continuance of trial, and we cannot conclude that Lee’s equivocal statements constituted a valid waiver of his right to counsel. This is especially so in light of his repeated attempts to explain his lack of preparedness to proceed to trial,” the ruling stated.

The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office appealed the ruling, but the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear the case, court records show.

Lee said he wanted to represent himself because he said he was not getting access to all the evidence.

“While Lee repeatedly stated that he was deprived of the right to view all of the discovery, the trial court did not inquire of Lee specifically what he had not seen; it also did not ask defense counsel to establish for the record the specific discovery or the extent thereof to which Lee had been given or denied access,” the appeals court ruling said. “Instead, the court stated, ‘make no mistake, we are going to trial on Monday.’ ”

Key concern for the prosecution was that Lee’s decision to represent himself was a delay tactic, records show. The case already was continued numerous times, with Lee appointed three different defense attorneys. By the time of his August 2018 trial, Lee had been in jail 16 months.

Lee’s new trial also has had numerous delays.

It originally was set for trial in August 2021, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it kept getting pushed out. Motions and hearings on the motions also led to delays, with the trial set for August 2022, then October 2022. Before the October trial could happen, the court ordered a mental competency evaluation. The court in January found Lee competent and set the March trial date, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Lee has been held in the Montgomery County Jail as he awaits his retrial.

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