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Reagan Tokes trial: Closing arguments conclude, jury begins deliberation for possible death sentence of Brian Golsby

Franklin County Prosecutor Rob O’Brien presents his final argument to the jury for a death sentence of Brian Golsby on March 20 at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. Credit: Jacob Myers | Managing Editor for Content

The broken childhood of Brian Golsby will either spare his life or will cease to matter once the jury returns with its recommendation for a sentence for the convicted murderer.

In the closing arguments Tuesday, the prosecution said Golsby is capable of making his own decisions, such as raping, robbing and murdering Ohio State student Reagan Tokes, while the defense argued the jury cannot look at the mitigating factors of Golsby’s childhood and justify a death sentence. Golsby had several traumatic experiences as a child that psychologist Bob Stinson called a “recipe for disaster” Monday.

Assistant prosecutor James Lowe and Prosecutor Ron O’Brien told the jury the only appropriate decision regarding Goldby’s sentencing is death.

“At some point, that cracked foundation that Bob Stinson told you about is no longer responsible,” Lowe said. “At some point, Brian is responsible for his own choices. If Brian Golsby was a recipe for disaster, it was the choices he made.”

Lowe said Golsby’s choices in foster care and in youth services show a pattern of wrong decisions that led to the night of Feb. 8, 2017.

In his statement, Lowe said as a youth Golsby continued to run away from foster homes and didn’t give those parents a chance; he raped the daughter of his dad’s girlfriend; he decided not to go to outpatient treatment; after landing in a stable environment, he was unwilling to stay.

Golsby kept his head down during the prosecution’s argument, refusing to make eye contact with anything but his hands.

Lowe said Golsby’s unsworn statement and apology from last week in which he plead for mercy on his life was “dripping with irony.” Lowe hammered the point that at his age, Golsby has to be held accountable for his actions.

In her 41-minute closing argument, defense attorney Diane Menashe said Golsby’s character has changed since his arrest on Feb. 11, 2017. She said he has received no citations while in prison — though the prosecution detailed Monday that Golsby tried to break down a door to fight another inmate within the last year of his holding. Menashe also said his willingness to give an unsworn statement and apology is reason to spare his life.

“Mr. O’Brien doesn’t think [the statement] was genuine. I went back in that holding tank afterward and I told Brian, ‘I am so effing proud of you,’ she said. “Because I was proud of him and I am proud of him.”

Defense attorney Diane Menashe tells the jury to consider Brian Golsby’s traumatic childhood when deciding a possible death sentence for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Ohio State student Reagan Tokes on March 20 at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. Credit: Jacob Myers | Managing Editor for Content

In his rebuttal, O’Brien fired back, saying, after listening to the recording of Golsby’s statement three times before Tuesday, that he believes Golsby was not remorseful for murdering the 21-year-old. He said he saw a man who was wiggling throughout the statement, faking his way through it.

“Do not let this man continue to wiggle,” O’Brien said.

Menashe presented a display of 17 mitigating factors that she believes could diminish the appropriateness of a death sentence, as well as other factors that painted Golsby as a victim of a broken children services system — which was a continuation of the defense’s testimony Monday.

The factors included Golsby’s history of sexual and physical abuse, the absence of a father, an abusive mother and mental health issues, among others.

The jury will recommend either one of three life sentences or the death penalty on four different counts of aggravated murder. If it cannot unanimously agree on the death penalty, the jury is required to recommend life in prison with the option of parole after 25 years, after 30 years, or with no option for parole at all. 

“I am not offering [these factors] for what Brian Golsby did to Reagan Tokes,” Menashe said. “There is no excuse for that. I’m offering this to get you to understand why he would make such an incredibly, horribly horrendous choice.”

O’Brien implored the jury not to let the defense divert its attention away from the fact that Golsby was the one who committed the crime, not his past.

“That man is a disaster sitting there today,” he said. “That disaster that sits there, the only appropriate punishment for the benefit of society … we are entitled to a verdict of death.”

Menashe said he had no mother, no father, no support system, which led to repeated criminal acts.

It led to no Reagan Tokes.

Following about five hours of deliberation, the jury left for the day about 5 p.m. and will continue deliberation 9 a.m. Wednesday.

3 comments

  1. Psychologists do not belong in the court room. This Dr has no evidence to support anything he assumed contributed to Golsby murdering Reagan Tokes. What Stinston presented on court is tantamount to tea leaf reading I hope the jury isn’t swayed by this yarn.

  2. Will there be anti-death penalty protesters?

  3. The word is “wriggle” Mr. O’Brien, not “wiggle”

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