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State v. Vinson

December 9, 2008


APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. (C.P.C. No. 07CR09-6859).

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



{¶1} Defendant-appellant, Ella B. Vinson, appeals from the judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, which found Vinson guilty of felonious assault. For the following reasons, we affirm.

{¶2} On September 20, 2007, the Franklin County Grand Jury indicted Vinson on one count of felonious assault, a second-degree felony, in violation of R.C. 2903.11. Vinson waived her right to a jury trial, and the case proceeded to a bench trial on February 22, 2008.

{¶3} At trial, Aleta Straight testified on behalf of plaintiff-appellee, the State of Ohio, and stated the following. On September 11, 2007, at about 7:00 p.m., Straight was at her daughter's apartment with her two granddaughters. Debbie Porter, Brenda Knight, and Susie Walden were sitting in front of Porter's apartment, and Straight joined them. Straight's two granddaughters began playing with other children nearby.

{¶4} While the four women sat in front of Porter's apartment, Straight heard Vinson yelling "black apes" at the children, so she went to get her grandchildren. When she returned, she stopped in front of Vinson's apartment and said to Vinson "why are you calling the children black apes, and then she grabbed my arm. She said I don't have to answer to you, you White B. And she grabbed my arm and pulled me to the edge of her porch and proceeded to slash at me and stab me." (Tr. 18.) The entire incident lasted "a matter of seconds. Maybe a minute." (Tr. 22.)

{¶5} Straight had nothing in her hands, and she "had no intentions of going there for an altercation." (Tr. 23.) Vinson slashed Straight's left hand and right arm. Straight did not realize immediately that she had been injured. She was "in shock, disbelief." (Tr. 24.) Straight had never seen Vinson before.

{¶6} Straight "had had a few drinks" that evening. (Tr. 27.) She was drinking bourbon, and she had consumed two drinks within 45 minutes prior to the incident. She was not intoxicated.

{¶7} Walden called 911, and Vinson was transported to the emergency room. She received 15 stitches.

{¶8} On cross-examination, Straight testified that she was not intoxicated at the hospital, but she was "very upset, in pain and in shock." (Tr. 40.) When asked whether she would be surprised to learn that the emergency room doctor said she was intoxicated, Straight stated, "No, because the way I was acting, he might have thought I was." (Tr. 41.) When asked whether she was cursing at the medical staff, Straight stated, "I probably was. You do crazy things in shock." Id. She denied having a drinking problem or a history of drunken altercations. She admitted to having an "OMVI," and to an outstanding warrant for her arrest. Id. In an apparent effort to determine Straight's tolerance for alcohol, the court asked Straight about her drinking that evening. Straight replied, "Sir, I drink all the time." (Tr. 50.)

{¶9} Debbie Porter testified on behalf of the state. Vinson was standing on the front porch and was calling the children names. Vinson pulled Straight onto the porch, making stabbing motions. Straight was "flailing her arms." (Tr. 58.) Porter had never had any problems with Vinson. (Tr. 60.)

{¶10} Porter saw Straight and Knight have one or two drinks that evening. Porter was not drinking, nor was Walden. Porter said that Straight "wasn't weaving and wobbling and falling down and everything else. She wasn't that intoxicated." (Tr. 75.) Porter was taking pain medication at that time, but it did not impair her ability to see or hear what happened.

{¶11} Susie Walden also testified and essentially confirmed the other witnesses' testimony. She said that Vinson was calling the children "black apes and black asses" and that Vinson pulled Straight onto her porch and stabbed her. (Tr. 78.) Walden also testified that she had known Vinson for about nine years and used to associate with her, but that they had had a "falling out." (Tr. 82.) She said that she had had arguments with Vinson about Vinson "messing with the kids." Id. On the evening in question, she had said "a few choice words" to Vinson. (Tr. 83.) On cross-examination, Walden admitted that the neighborhood children sing a derogatory song about Vinson and that she and Vinson had had other incidents between them.

{¶12} Brenda Knight also testified. She stated that she was directly behind Straight and told Straight not to say anything to Vinson. She said she heard Vinson call the children names, heard Straight's question to Vinson, and heard Vinson's response. She said that Straight did not touch Vinson and did not have anything in her hands. Instead, Vinson "just pulled her on the porch and just started stabbing her." (Tr. 103.)

{¶13} Knight also confirmed that she had been drinking that night and "had had one or two shots" of Canadian Mist. (Tr. 105.) She was not intoxicated, however. She did not think Straight was intoxicated that evening, but described Straight as being "in shock" after the stabbing. (Tr. 106.)

{ΒΆ14} On cross-examination, Knight agreed that the complex is in a "high-crime neighborhood" and that many people carry weapons. (Tr. 108.) Contrary to her direct testimony, Knight stated that she had not heard Vinson call the children names that evening, but that one of the children came to the four of them and said that Vinson had called them names. Knight also testified that Vinson stabbed Straight four or five times, and on her arm and head. In response to further examination and the court's questions, Knight said that she had taken pain medication that day, but that it did not interfere with her ability to see ...

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