If an Ohio law says defendants are innocent until proven guilty and citizens have rights to defend themselves in life threatening situtations; then why did Euclid’s prosecutor file murder charges against Omnisun Azali before police, the coroner and BCI investigated?

CLEVELAND, OHOmnisun Azali’s attorney, Jeffrey Saffold, says his client shot his wife to death after she started shooting first.  According to Saffold his client’s acts were in self-defense.  Mwaka Azali, the mother of Omnisun’s two children, was allegedly trying to take his life just like Calvin Williams’ late brother’s wife took his.  William Williams was shot to death in their Glenville home by a woman, Dana Johnson, who had been his wife.

At the home the Azali couple shared at 144 E. 265th Street in Euclid, Ohio the city’s municipal court records and published reports are showing the Cleveland suburb’s police retrieved and are supposed to be testing two weapons with the help of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations under the supervision of Ohio Attorney General David Yost.  A handgun was found next to Azali’s wife’s body and Euclid police have confirmed that shells from two weapons were fired and retrieved.

Mwaka Azali was shot three times in the head after her husband, Omnisun Azali, accused her of shooting at him first during an argument.

The investigation is ongoing and it’s the reason Euclid police are giving reporters who they’ve unlawfully denied access to the incident report that becomes a public record upon creation.  Incident reports are not “law enforcement investigatory records” and police and prosecutors have no legal authority to withhold them.  That conclusion was made by the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1994 and repeated by the court in 2020 to law enforcement officers, again, in Cobb v. Summit Cty. Prosecutor, 2020-Ohio-636

Incident reports initiate criminal investigations, but are not part of the investigation. Incident reports are thus not confidential law enforcement investigatory records, and are public records subject to immediate release upon request. Maurer at 56; Steckman v. Jackson, 70 Ohio St.3d 420, 639 N.E.2d 83 (1994), paragraph five of the syllabus. 

Untrained, uncertified and violent Euclid police under Mayor Gail Holzheimer aren’t presuming Azali’s innocence in what his lawyer claims was an act of self-defense.  They’re trying to “build” a criminal case against an American citizen who has already been charged with “murder” before the investigation is over in a state that offers citizns facing life and death situations the “self-defense affirmative defense.”

Euclid prosecutor Kelly Sweeney.

Azali could be truthful.  His wife could have indeed been trying to shoot him to death.  But a charge of murder makes Azali appear guilty to the public even before law enforcement officials have completed an investigation.  He’s also been convicted by Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s administration with a termination from his job as county Information Technology specialist.

When his mother, an attorney and Cuyahoga County Court of Common pleas judge, tried to surrender Azali to Euclid police by driving him back to the home he’d left in obvious shock over what had happened the city’s cops pulled guns on them both.  Sandra Colliers-Williams is heard telling a Euclid police dispatcher she was a county “judge.”

The dispatcher instructed Judge Colliers-Williams that they both should keep their hands up when she arrived at her son’s home.  She’s heard telling the dispatcher the couple were shooting at each other and she thought her 37-year-old daughter-in-law, Mwaka Azali, might be “wounded.”

Judge Colliers-Williams had called 911 to let Euclid dispatchers know and share her plans but it didn’t matter.  Cops pulled guns on the unarmed mother and son when she arrived at the home the couple shared.  That’s according to “published” media reports.

The only facts known to Euclid Municipal Court Judge Patrick Gallagher when municipal prosecutor Kelly Sweeney’s office filed a “murder” charge against Azali was that a shooting occured at the couple’s home and he was alleging through his attorney, Saffold, that his role in the marital violence was an act of “self defense.”  Mason is a relatively inexperienced attorney the Supreme Court of Ohio’s “attorney directory” identifies as having been admitted to practice law in the state on November 13, 2017.  Attorney Kelly Sweeney is Holzheimer’s director of law and chief prosecutor.

Section 2901.05(A) of the Ohio Revised Code establishes that every person accused of an offense is “presumed innocent,” but that’s not the criminal justice paradigm driving the conduct of Euclid police, prosecutors and now Colliers-Williams fellow judges in Cuyahoga County.  They’ve accepted Sweeney and Mason’s “rush” prosecution and are now processing the criminal charge filed by the city’s prosecutors as valid in a state with its own version of Florid’a “stand your ground” law.

A) Every person accused of an offense is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof for all elements of the offense is upon the prosecution.  The burden of going forward with the evidence of an affirmative defense, and the burden of proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, for an affirmative defense other than self-defense, defense of another, or defense of the accused’s residence as described in division (B)(1) of this section, is upon the accused.

(B)(1) A person is allowed to act in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence.  If, at the trial of a person who is accused of an offense that involved the person’s use of force against another, there is evidence presented that tends to support that the accused person used the force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person did not use the force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, as the case may be.

Section (B)(1) clearly articulates – had Euclid’s prosecutors, judge and police bothered to read it – that “a person is allowed to act in self-defense…”  With two weapons in the city of Euclid’s possession neither the police nor the prosecuting attorney have evidence that Omnisun Azali was “not” acting in self-defense.  Police captain Mitch Houser’s claim to be pursuing “justice” for Mwaka affirms that before the investigation is over he’s already concluded Omnisun is guilty.

Euclid police captain Mitch Houser told FOX8 reporter Peggy Gallek he was interested in justice for Mwaka Azali, her loved ones and family. It’s an indication that Euclid’s police, prosecutor and municipal court judge have already made up their minds that Omnisun Azali was “not” operating in self-defense and presumed innocent. Omnisun was her family and loved one.  He has no criminal record.  The “docket” of the Euclid Municipal Court does not show him ever being charged with domestic violence.  Instead of operating with an open mind that Azali might have, indeed, been acting in sef-defense their minds are closed to the fact he might be telling the truth.

Pursuant to Section 2903.02(A) of the Ohio Revised Code a murder charge requires Azali’s shooting of his wife to have been “purposeful” or done while he was “committing or attempting to commit an offense of violence that is a felony of the first or second degree.”

(A) No person shall purposely cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy. (B) No person shall cause the death of another as a proximate result of the offender’s committing or attempting to commit an offense of violence that is a felony of the first or second degree and that is not a violation of section 2903.03 or 2903.04 of the Revised Code.  (C) Division (B) of this section does not apply to an offense that becomes a felony of the first or second degree only if the offender previously has been convicted of that offense or another specified offense.  (D) Whoever violates this section is guilty of murder, and shall be punished as provided in section 2929.02 of the Revised Code.

 Nothing in the facts thus far presented through Euclid’s municipal court by the city’s prosecutors fits the elements that support the “murder” charge found in Section 2903.02(A) of the Ohio Revised Code.  Azali had allegedly arrived at the the family’s home to pick up the couple’s son for a doctor’s appointment.  According to one of my sources their children were already in his car when the shooting started.

There was a strong hint of sadness in Judge Cassandra Colliers-Williams’ voice when she told dispatchers her son and grandchildren’s mother were in a gunfight.

In listening to the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) recording of the conversation between Judge Collier-Williams and a Euclid dispatcher one can hear the sadness in her voice as she offers what it appears she was told by her son.  Omnisun Azali and the mother of her grandchildren were engaged in a gunfight and his wife may be wounded.

Ohio media outlets for some reason have added “no duty to retreat” language to a law that does nothing more than offer the average citizen the same “affirmative defense” as law enforcement officers who claim to be “in fear for their lives” when they shoot and then kill unarmed American citizens.

I’ve shared all of Section 2901.05 of the Ohio Revised Code below that took effect on April 6, 2021.  What I shared above was a summary.  The law does not apply “retroactively” and there are significant language differences between similiar “affirmative defense” laws enacted by Ohio and Florida’s General Assemblies.

The Florida statute is codified as Chapter 776.013 of the state’s Revised Statutes. It is captioned “Justifiable use of force.”  The Florida law means nothing in the state of Ohio.

Home protection; use or threatened use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—  (1) A person who is in a dwelling or residence in which the person has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use or threaten to use(a) Nondeadly force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force; or  (b) Deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

The heading of Section 2901.05 of the Ohio Revised Code reads, “Burden of proof – reasonable doubt – self-defense.”  Omnisun Azali’s attorney has offered it as the affirmative defense he intends to use to defend his client’s “innocence.”  Cleveland area residents following the unfolding events will soon learn if attorney Saffold will make it stick.

(A) Every person accused of an offense is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof for all elements of the offense is upon the prosecution. The burden of going forward with the evidence of an affirmative defense, and the burden of proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, for an affirmative defense other than self-defense, defense of another, or defense of the accused’s residence presented as described in division (B)(1) of this section, is upon the accused.(B)(1) A person is allowed to act in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence. If, at the trial of a person who is accused of an offense that involved the person’s use of force against another, there is evidence presented that tends to support that the accused person used the force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person did not use the force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, as the case may be.(2) Subject to division (B)(3) of this section, a person is presumed to have acted in self-defense or defense of another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if the person against whom the defensive force is used is in the process of unlawfully and without privilege to do so entering, or has unlawfully and without privilege to do so entered, the residence or vehicle occupied by the person using the defensive force.(3) The presumption set forth in division (B)(2) of this section does not apply if either of the following is true:(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has a right to be in, or is a lawful resident of, the residence or vehicle.(b) The person who uses the defensive force uses it while in a residence or vehicle and the person is unlawfully, and without privilege to be, in that residence or vehicle.(4) The presumption set forth in division (B)(2) of this section is a rebuttable presumption and may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence, provided that the prosecution’s burden of proof remains proof beyond a reasonable doubt as described in divisions (A) and (B)(1) of this section.(C) As part of its charge to the jury in a criminal case, the court shall read the definitions of “reasonable doubt” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” contained in division (E) of this section.(D) As used in this section:

(1) An “affirmative defense” is either of the following:

(a) A defense expressly designated as affirmative;

(b) A defense involving an excuse or justification peculiarly within the knowledge of the accused, on which the accused can fairly be required to adduce supporting evidence.

(2) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind that has a roof over it and that is designed to be occupied by people lodging in the building or conveyance at night, regardless of whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent or is mobile or immobile. As used in this division, a building or conveyance includes, but is not limited to, an attached porch, and a building or conveyance with a roof over it includes, but is not limited to, a tent.

(3) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as a guest.

(4) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, that is designed to transport people or property.

(E) “Reasonable doubt” is present when the jurors, after they have carefully considered and compared all the evidence, cannot say they are firmly convinced of the truth of the charge. It is a doubt based on reason and common sense. Reasonable doubt is not mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affairs or depending on moral evidence is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt” is proof of such character that an ordinary person would be willing to rely and act upon it in the most important of the person’s own affairs.

Eric Jonathan Brewer

Cleveland's most influential journalist and East Cleveland's most successful mayor is an East Saint Louis, Illinois native whose father led the city's petition drive in 1969 to elect the first black mayor in 1971. Eric is an old-school investigative reporter whose 40-year body of editorial work has been demonstrably effective. No local journalist is feared or respected more.

Trained in newspaper publishing by the legendary Call & Post Publisher William Otis Walker in 1978 when it was the nation's 5th largest Black-owned publication, Eric has published and edited 13 local, regional and statewide publications across Ohio. Adding to his publishing and reporting resume is Eric's career in government. Eric served as the city's highest paid part-time Special Assistant to ex-Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. He served as Chief of Staff to ex-East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor; and Chief of Communications to the late George James in his capacity as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's first Black executive director. Eric was appointed to serve as a member of the state's Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to guide the East Cleveland school district out of fiscal emergency and $20 million deficit. Former U.S. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told Eric in his D.C. office he was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously-managing a municipal block grant program. Eric wrote the city's $2.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant application. A HUD Inspector General audit of his management of the block grant program resulted in "zero" audit findings.

As a newspaper publisher, Eric has used his insider's detailed knowledge of government and his publications to lead the FBI and state prosecutors to investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions of well-known elected officials in Ohio; and have helped realign Cleveland's political landscape with the defeat of candidates and issues he's exposed. Eric's stories led to the indictments of the late Governor George Voinovich's brother, Paul Voinovich of the V Group, and four associates. He asked the FBI to investigate the mayor he'd served as chief of staff for public corruption; and testified in three federal trials for the prosecution. He forced former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj to admit her investigations of police killings were fraudulent; and to issue notices to local police that her investigators would control police killing investigations. Eric's current work has resulted in Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo accepting the criminal complaint he guided an activist to file against 24 civil rights-violating police officers in the city he once led for operating without valid peace officer credentials. USA Today reporters picked up on Eric's police credentials reporting from his social media page and made it national.

Eric is the author of of his first book, "Fight Police License Plate Spying," which examines the FBI and local police misuse of the National Crime Information Center criminal records history database. An accomplished trumpet player and singer whose friendship with Duke Fakir of the Four Tops resulted in his singing the show's closing song, "Can't Help Myself": Curtis Sliwa of New York's Guardian Angels counts Eric among his founding chapter leaders from the early 1980's role as an Ohio organizer of over 300 volunteer crime fighters in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio. For his work as a young man Eric was recognized by Cleveland's Urban League as it's 1983 Young Man of the Year.

Known in Cleveland for his encyclopedic knowledge of government and history, and intimately-connected with the region's players, every local major media outlet in Cleveland has picked up on one of Eric's stories since 1979. There is no mainstream newspaper, television or radio outlet in Cleveland that does not include an interview with Eric Jonathan Brewer in its archives over the past 40 years.

Reply

Skip to toolbar