October 24, 2014

Medina
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Woman to be released from prison on appeals court decision

MEDINA — An appeals court overturning a 33-year-old Columbus woman’s 2012 major drug conviction will result in the woman’s release from prison, officials said.

Isha S. Harper has served more than a year of her 11-year prison sentence at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman said he will be forced to drop the charges — in which she was accused with having almost 4ᄑ pounds of cocaine in the trunk of her vehicle during a traffic stop — because the 9th District Court Appeals ruled Monday that Ohio Highway Patrol troopers found the drugs during an illegal search.

Isha Harper

Isha Harper

“I’m going to have to dismiss the case,” Holman said. “They’ve said we can’t use the evidence that’s the very basis of the charge.”

Holman said he’s instructed the Medina County Clerk of Courts Office to inform the prison that Harper should be released.

The prosecutor could have appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, but Holman said he was confident the justices would not have accepted the case because there was no broad issue, just findings of fact by the appellate court.

A trooper arrested Harper on a warrant for driving under suspension on Oct. 19, 2011. He had pulled Harper over, he testified at her trial, because she followed a tractor-trailer too closely while traveling north on Interstate 71.

The appellate judges found the trooper’s dashboard camera contradicted his testimony and that the trooper had no reasonable suspicion that Harper had broken a law. As a result, Harper’s arrest and the search of her vehicle that followed was found to be improper.

A jury in June 2012 found Harper guilty of cocaine possession, a first-degree felony because of the amount of drugs. The amount also led to her being labeled a “major drug offender,” which meant a mandatory maximum sentence of 11 years.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.