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Who had the top 5 cases in the Akron area? Local firms compete.
Gorman, Malarcik & Pierce save defendant from death penalty

Legal News Reporter

Published: March 17, 2017

In January the Akron Bar Association and the Akron Legal News joined hands in a first-ever contest to identify the top five most significant cases handled by local legal professionals over the last 18 months.

Firms and in-house legal departments were asked to submit their top three cases or transactions that were resolved or took place between June 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016.

The cases and/or transactions were to be selected based on precedent, a major verdict, dollar amount or the impact on the community.

Four law firms responded to the call out, including Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs; Niekamp, Weisensell, Mutersbaugh & Mastrantonio; Brouse McDowell and Gorman, Malarcik & Pierce.

For the next several weeks, stories about these cases and transactions will appear on the Akron Bar Association page in the Friday edition of the Akron Legal News.

Beginning the week of April 17, legal professionals will be able to vote for their favorite cases via the Akron Bar Association website.

The winners will be honored during a breakfast ceremony on May 2 at the Akron Bar Association.

Page 3 contains the first of these cases submitted by the criminal defense firm Gorman, Malarcik & Pierce.

The eight-person criminal defense law firm of Gorman, Malarcik & Pierce represents defendants in state and federal courts in Northeast Ohio. The Akron-based firm handles everything from DUI to death penalty cases.

In February 2016, attorneys Don Malarcik and Brian Pierce served as trial counsel for defendant Eric Hendon charged in connection with the aggravated murder of three Barberton residents and the attempted murder of a Barberton woman during a 2013 New Year’s Eve home invasion and robbery involving drugs and cash.

John Kohler, 42, his son David Carpenter-Kohler, 14, and David’s sister Ashley Carpenter, 18, were shot to death in their home. Kohler’s girlfriend Ronda Blankenship was also shot and stabbed in the face but survived.

Eric Hendon, a resident of Akron, was facing the death penalty. His younger brother and co-defendant Michael Deon Hendon was also charged in the case but Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones found him to be intellectually disabled and ineligible for the death penalty.

Michael Hendon was found guilty by a Summit County Common Pleas Court jury in August 2015 and later sentenced to life without parole by Judge Amy Corrigall Jones.

Summit County Assistant Prosecutors Daniel Sallerson and Teri Burnside presided over Eric Hendon’s case.

In April 2016 a Summit County Common Pleas jury found Eric Hendon guilty on all charges. They had the option of sentencing him to death, life without parole, life with the possibility of parole after 30 years or life with potential parole after 25 years.

He received life without parole.

“We spent a lot of time talking to the jury about Eric’s upbringing and childhood and how the system that was designed to protect him actually betrayed him,” said Malarcik.

“The abuse he suffered impacted his decisions as an adult. We called in an expert on childhood trauma and explained to the jury how trauma shapes a person’s decisions later in life.

“We made a successful argument that although he was guilty he should not be put to death because of the failures of the system and the trauma he suffered.”

While Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh’s office did not specifically comment on the outcome, an emailed statement was sent to the Akron Legal News in which the surviving victim, Ronda Blankenship, was commended for her courage.

The statement released by Summit County Prosecutor Director of Communications James Pollack on behalf of Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh stated that, “Since June of 2015, my office has handled nearly 80 homicide cases, including the murders of young children. While we do not want to single out any one of our victims, as Summit County Prosecutor, I want to publicly recognize Ronda Blankenship. Her courage and incredible will to live are an inspiration to everyone.

“Ronda witnessed a violent repeat criminal named Eric Hendon execute three people; the man she lived with and loved, and his two teenaged children. Hendon then shot Ronda in the head, stabbed her in the face, and left her for dead. Incredibly, she survived and testified against Hendon during his murder trial. Because of her strength and courage, Hendon was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Ronda never gave up, and neither do my prosecutors.”