Surviving victim loses appeal of release of records in triple-murder case; Ninth District says issues are moot

From The Akron Beacon Journal The surviving victim of a shooting rampage that left three others dead has lost her appeal of the release of her medical records and other personal information during a capital-murder trial last year.

The Ninth District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the issues Ronda Blankenship raised in her appeal were moot because she provided the requested information to the court during the trial that has now concluded.

Eric Hendon was convicted of the New Year’s Eve 2013 triple murder and sentenced last May to life in prison without parole. Blankenship was stabbed and shot in the face, but survived. Her boyfriend and his two teenage children were killed.

Blankenship was required during Hendon’s trial to turn over a wealth of personal information, including her medical and psychological records, cellphone, laptop and Facebook and email passwords. Elizabeth Well, Blankenship’s attorney, argued this information shouldn’t have been provided without giving Blankenship the chance to challenge its release in court.

Well, who works for the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, a Columbus-based nonprofit that provides legal help to crime victims, argued the case before the Ninth District in August. Her main objection was that the records were sought from Blankenship through discovery rather than by subpoena. If they had been subpoenaed, Well said Blankenship could have challenged their release and had a hearing.

Well said the release of the records violated the attorney-client privilege, doctor-client privilege and Blankenship’s privacy rights.

Appellate Judges Beth Whitmore, Donna Carr and Julie Schafer noted the uniqueness of the case when they heard it. Carr said she has “never seen a case like this in 20 years on the bench.”

Schafer, who wrote the court’s opinion, said this uniqueness diminishes the likelihood that the same issues will arise.

Well, who couldn’t be reached Tuesday afternoon, previously said an unfavorable ruling by the appellate court would be appealed because of the potential ramifications for crime victims across the state.

Don Malarcik and Brian Pierce, Hendon’s attorneys, previously said they thought Blankenship’s appeal was moot because Blankenship provided the requested information to Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Amy Corrigall Jones during the trial for an “in-camera” or private inspection.

“The judge carefully balanced Ms. Blankenship’s desire to keep certain things from the defense versus an accused’s right to a fair trial,” Malarcik said. “Had the court withheld these records, any conviction would have been overturned and a new trial ordered.”

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh also weighed in on the issue.

“Since the very beginning we felt the defense attorneys in this case went too far in requesting personal information about the victim,” Walsh said. “Ronda suffered through an unspeakable trauma; stabbed, shot and left for dead after her boyfriend and his two children were shot and killed. She should not have been victimized a second time.”