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State v. Leisure

December 8, 2008



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bressler, P.J.


{¶1} Defendant-appellant, Andrew Leisure, appeals his conviction in the Preble County Court of Common Pleas for aggravated murder, tampering with evidence, gross abuse of a corpse, theft, and aggravated robbery. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

{¶2} On January 15, 2006, appellant shot and killed his father, Ronald Leisure. He was arrested by police the following day and provided two statements detailing the events involved. A competency evaluation was performed on May 11, 2006. Appellant was found not competent to stand trial and was hospitalized at Twin Valley Behavior Health Center. On May 7, 2007, the court found, based on the opinions of two experts, that appellant was now competent to stand trial. A bench trial was held on September 17, 18 and 19, 2007. At trial, appellant did not dispute the fact that he had killed his father. Instead, the issue before the court was whether appellant was not guilty of the murder by reason of insanity. The court heard the testimony of two experts and determined that appellant had not established a not guilty by reason of insanity defense and found him guilty of the charged offenses.

{¶3} Appellant now appeals his conviction, raising a single assignment of error for our review. His sole argument on appeal relates to the trial court's decision that appellant did not establish a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. He argues this finding is not supported by the manifest weight of the evidence.

{¶4} At trial, the facts surrounding the shooting and appellant's mental condition were introduced by means of police interviews and the testimony of mental health professionals. This evidence established that appellant lived with his father at a house in Preble County. On the day of the shooting, the victim called appellant and stated that he was on his way home. Appellant took a gun from his father's dresser and loaded it. While waiting for his father to return, appellant debated whether or not to shoot his father. After hearing his father's vehicle in the driveway, appellant walked outside and shot his father three times as he walked toward the house. Appellant then went back inside the house, reloaded the gun and returned outside. His father begged appellant to call 911. However, appellant stood over him and shot his father twice in the head, causing instantaneous death.

{¶5} Appellant then emptied a bag that his father carried, looking for prescription medications. He tied his father's body to a four-wheeler and dragged the body across the farm where they lived and behind a chicken coop. He also took money out of his father's wallet and searched the body for drugs. He later returned and placed the body inside the chicken coop. Appellant cleaned up blood on his clothing and threw away his father's bloody hat and glasses and turned over dirt at the site of the shooting to cover up the blood.

{¶6} Appellant went inside the house and took change that his father kept inside. He took the change, along with cash from the wallet and the prescription drugs, and drove his father's truck to pick up a friend. The two drove around, searching for someone who could sell drugs to them. They were unsuccessful that evening, but began their search again the next morning and appellant was able to purchase and use cocaine. Appellant was arrested after his father's girlfriend discovered the victim was missing and called police.

{¶7} Evidence was presented to show that appellant had been previously admitted to the psychiatric unit at Reid Hospital for paranoid behavior in May and June 2004. At the time, he had been using drugs and was seeing visions and hearing voices and believed numerous people wanted to kill him.

{¶8} According to interviews with appellant, he believed that his father had the ability to look a person in the eyes and yell, scream and swear at them and the person would become unconscious or hypnotized. He stated that his father would often perform this act on him and was killing him. He blamed his father for making him gay and also stated that he heard voices and was seeing things. In interviews with police and mental health professionals, appellant stated that he felt that he had to kill his father or his father would eventually kill him or make him kill someone else.

{¶9} At trial, Dr. Kim Stookey testified that appellant was legally insane at the time of the offense. Dr. Stephen Noffsinger testified that appellant had a mental illness at the time of the offense, but because he was able to understand the wrongfulness of his actions, was not legally insane. The court considered the testimony and found that appellant did not meet his burden to establish a not guilty by reason of insanity defense. As mentioned above, this determination is the sole issue on appeal.

{¶10} Insanity is an affirmative defense, placing the burden on the accused to establish the defense by a preponderance of the evidence. R.C. 2901.05(A); State v. Brown (1983), 5 Ohio St.3d 133. The Ohio Revised Code provides the standard courts must follow when determining whether a defendant has established an insanity defense: "[a] person is 'not guilty by reason of insanity' relative to a charge of an offense only if the person proves * * * that at the time of the commission of the offense, the person did not know, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, the wrongfulness of the person's acts." R.C. 2901.01(A)(14). "The weight to be given the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses who provide opinions regarding the defense of insanity in a criminal proceeding are primarily for the trier of fact." State v. Curry (1989), 45 Ohio St.3d 109.

{¶11} Drs. Stookey and Noffsinger provided expert opinions at trial on the issue of whether appellant was legally insane at the time of the offense. Both experts agree that appellant was suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time of the offense. Their opinions differed, however, on the issue of whether appellant knew the wrongfulness of his actions at the time.

{ΒΆ12} Dr. Stookey is a clinical psychologist who performs forensic evaluations. She testified that she first examined appellant in March 2006 to determine his competency to stand trial, and found that he was incompetent at that time. She examined appellant again in March 2007 and found that although he had not completely abandoned his delusional beliefs, he was now considering things and was competent to stand trial. On April 9, 2007, she prepared an evaluation regarding appellant's sanity at the time of the offense. Dr. Stookey explained that she diagnosed schizophrenia, paranoid type, and that appellant did not understand the wrongfulness of his actions because he believed he was justified in ending his father's ...

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