Inside 10 Investigates: Brian Golsby and the court of public opinion


COLUMBUS– Brian Golsby is alive because of his attorneys.

Judge Mark Serrott said it.

“The jury did a fantastic job. They did their job. They listened to the evidence. I hope people don’t criticize this jury verdict. We brought in 12 citizens who returned what they felt was a just verdict. It was a deadlocked verdict. But again, that goes to the nature of the way our law works. So, I hope there is no criticism of the system,” Judge Serrott said.

"I would like to commend the lawyers for both sides. We have a system of justice. It’s the best in the world,” Judge Serrott said. “This case was prosecuted fairly and with passion in accordance with the law. And the defense did an amazing job for your Mr. Golsby, I hope you don’t waste their efforts because you are standing here alive because of your lawyers. I hope you know that. It’s part of the system and it worked in my opinion.”

Mr. Golsby was tried in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. Not in the court of public opinion.

In that venue, he did not fare so well. People were angry.

On 10TV’s Facebook page, people watched the judge sentence Brian Golsby to life in prison with no possibility of parole for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Ohio State student Reagan Tokes.

There were more than 1,000 comments. 442 angry emojis. 137 shares. The comments:

“Prayers for death penalty”

“This is justice???”

“Don’t accept the jury recommendation…”

It’s that last point that needs clarity. It’s the point people need to hear and understand.

Judge Serrott cannot legally enhance the jury’s sentence recommendation. He can’t legally take a life sentence recommendation and turn it into a death sentence.

And jurors, in this case, had to be unanimous in their decision. That was the threshold. All 12 had to agree that the death penalty was appropriate. That is the standard.

All 12 had the ability to subjectively weigh the aggravating circumstances against the mitigating factors.

Jurors heard testimony that Brian Golsby kidnapped, raped, robbed and fatally shot Reagan Tokes at close range in Scioto Grove Metro Park on February 8, 2017.

They heard about how she was abducted, forced to withdraw money from ATMs, robbed of her purse, car, clothing, sexually assaulted and then forced to strip naked and walk to her death in that park. They heard that.

They also heard that Brian Golsby was abused as a child, had no father, was raped at the age of 12 and then acted out – choosing to rape 9 others in his youth.

He was sent to the Department of Youth Services where his defense attorneys said he received sex offender treatment but never received trauma-informed care that psychologists testified could have righted Golsby’s ship before it was too late.

Golsby later was convicted of attempted rape and robbery and served five and half years in prison before being released in November of 2016. He was then assigned a GPS ankle monitor but the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and its Adult Parole Authority failed to monitor Golsby closely.

“Had he been monitored this may have never happened,” Judge Serrott said.

The jurors heard that. (Perhaps state corrections officials did too).

After deliberating for more than seven hours stretched over two days, jurors were unable to reach a unanimous sentencing recommendation.

(Jurors later told 10 Investigates that 8 of the 12 jurors thought Golsby should have received the death penalty; two were for life in prison without the possibility of parole; and two others were undecided or leaning towards life).

And without a unanimous decision, those jurors were deadlocked and were then left with only once choice per their jury instructions – a sentence of life in prison.

Brian Golsby begged the jury for mercy earlier this week. And his life was spared.

Jurors did not get to hear from Reagan Tokes’ parents until after they reached their sentencing recommendation. And that’s part of Ohio law too.

As explained by Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, victim impact statements don’t happen during the penalty phase of a capital murder cases. Those are the rules we play by.

Lisa McCrary-Tokes and her husband Toby Tokes sat silently as they heard the words “life in prison.”

They told 10 Investigates the trial was harder on them than they anticipated.

Regarding the sentence, she told me: “It doesn't change anything for us. We still walk away as someone who lost a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a grandchild. What it does give us today is closure from this portion. We can walk away knowing this is not looming over our heads.”

Toby Tokes: “He doesn't exist to us. He doesn't exist. He hasn't existed in our world the day we heard his name. This was about Justice for Reagan and I believe that that happened. But we give him no thought. He's gone forever.”

Golsby did not speak at his sentencing hearing. The judge asked him if he wanted to say anything else.

“No your honor thank you,” Brian Golsby said during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.

We don’t know why he committed this crime.

He told his friends he needed the $60.

We really don’t know if that’s accurate. He declined a request by 10 Investigates to be interviewed after his sentencing.

But Brian Golsby will have the rest of his life to think about it inside an Ohio prison.

As always 10 Investigates would like to hear from you. Share with us your story ideas and tips. Email us at or call the 10 Investigates tipline at 1-866-836-5463.

Facebook: Bennett Haeberle – Reporter
Twitter: @bhaeberle

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