New trial taking shape for man convicted of killing Lima man

LIMA — A Tennessee man convicted in 2019 of killing a Lima man with a tree limb was back inside an Allen County courtroom Thursday as plans for a new trial — ordered by an appellate court — started to take shape.

The Third District Court of Appeals, in one of its final rulings of 2022, overturned the 2019 murder conviction of Clois Ray Adkins and returned the case to Allen County Common Pleas Court for a new trial.

Following a two-day trial in 2019, jurors found Adkins guilty of two counts of murder and two counts of felonious assault in the death of Robert “Robby” Smith II, 22, during an altercation nearly two years earlier in Lima. Adkins was sentenced to a mandatory prison term of 15 years to life.

Testimony during the trial showed Smith, now 25 years of age, and Adkins became engaged in a fight at the intersection of Holmes and Milburn avenues in Lima. Adkins struck Smith in the head one time with a tree limb, and Smith was pronounced dead the following day of traumatic head injuries.

The appellate court’s ruling for a new trial hinged primarily on a change in Ohio’s self-defense law. Adkins’ attorney, Stephen Chamberlain, maintained at trial that his client had acted in self-defense. He filed a motion with the trial court requesting the applicability of an amended version of Ohio’s self-defense law. Prosecutors opposed that motion, and Allen County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Reed ruled the amended version of the law did not apply to Adkins’s case.

The appellate court’s opinion, authored by Judge William Zimmerman, disagreed and said Adkins was deprived of a fair trial when the trial court instructed the jury that Adkins had the burden of proving self-defense.

With the case thrown back to Allen County Common Pleas Court, Chamberlain earlier this year requested the court order his client to undergo a competency evaluation. During Thursday’s hearing, it was revealed that a report from Dr. Kara Marciani of the Forensic Center for Western Ohio in Dayton had deemed Adkins competent to stand trial.

Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Destiny Caldwell and Chamberlain stipulated to the contents of the report, and Reed formally declared Adkins fit to stand trial.

A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for July 24, and a tentative trial date of Oct. 31 was put on the record.