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State of Ohio v. andrew M. Lennox

September 30, 2011

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ANDREW M. LENNOX, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Criminal Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 09 CR 000305.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary Jane Trapp, J.

Cite as

State v. Lennox,

OPINION

Judgment: Affirmed.

{¶1} Appellant, Andrew M. Lennox, appeals from his conviction and sentence in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas for Aggravated Vehicular Homicide and Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol, a Drug of Abuse, or a Combination of Them ("OVI"). An evening spent enjoying music with his girlfriend, Heather Fiorelli, came to a deadly ending when Mr. Lennox's car struck a telephone pole, tearing the car in two, and killing Ms. Fiorelli. No reasonable doubt exists that the causes of this tragic accident were Mr. Lennox's alcohol-impaired driving at a high rate of speed, and his failure to heed a stop sign before hitting an anomaly in the road, which catapulted his car off the road and into the pole. The state presented more than sufficient evidence that the alcohol he consumed before driving substantially impaired Mr. Lennox's driving, and that the alcohol was a substantial factor in Ms. Fiorelli's death.

{¶2} Mr. Lennox was sentenced to four years in prison and his license was suspended for life. He now argues for reversal of his conviction asserting three grounds: he was incompetent to stand trial because of amnesia resulting from a head injury sustained in the accident; his statement made in an interview with police should have been suppressed because of a claimed Fourth Amendment violation; and insufficient evidence existed to support the conviction.

{¶3} We affirm the trial court's judgment finding that the state presented sufficient evidence that Mr. Lennox's intoxication was a substantial factor in causing the accident that killed Heather Fiorelli. Examining the totality of the circumstances surrounding his station-house interview, we find that Mr. Lennox was not in custody at that time and, thus, the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement was not triggered. Mr. Lennox voluntarily went with the police and voluntarily made incriminating statements. We also find no error in the trial court's competency decision. Despite experiencing amnesia after a head injury sustained in the deadly crash, Mr. Lennox understood the nature of the proceedings against him and was able to assist his attorney in mounting a defense, all hallmarks of legal competency to stand trial.

{¶4} Substantive Facts and Procedural History

{¶5} Late in the evening of April 17, 2009, Mr. Lennox attended a concert in Cleveland with Ms. Fiorelli. Before and during the concert, Mr. Lennox drank several shots of liquor and a few beers, apparently under the assumption that Ms. Fiorelli would be driving home. Although Ms. Fiorelli began the drive to Eastlake, Mr. Lennox took over the wheel somewhere along Lakeshore Boulevard.

{¶6} In the one o'clock hour on April 18, 2009, Mr. Lennox increased his speed while on Roberts Road in Eastlake (a 25 m.p.h. zone) to about 68 m.p.h. He ran through a stop sign at Willowick Drive, hit a bump in the road formed by the conjunction of asphalt and concrete, and lost control of his vehicle. The vehicle struck a telephone pole and was split into two pieces. Both Mr. Lennox and Ms. Fiorelli were ejected from the vehicle. Mr. Lennox sustained a laceration to his forehead. Ms. Fiorelli died at the scene of the accident; her death caused by blunt impact to her head, trunk, and extremities, resulting in fatal brain injury.

{¶7} Lieutenant Herron of the Eastlake Police Department was first to arrive on scene, shortly after the crash. He found Mr. Lennox face down, attempting to get up. Mr. Lennox was advised not to stand, but he did so and inquired whether Ms. Fiorelli could drive the car home for him. He was placed in a police van to await medical attention, while Lieutenant Herron continued to investigate the crash. Shortly thereafter, Officer Formick arrived on scene and spoke with Mr. Lennox in the police van. Upon opening the door to the van, Officer Formick noticed an odor of alcohol. Officer Formick attempted to discuss the crash, but Mr. Lennox appeared confused and again asked whether Ms. Fiorelli could drive home. He did not understand the extent of the accident, nor did he realize that Ms. Fiorelli had died at the scene.

{¶8} Soon thereafter, Mr. Lennox was treated by paramedics on-scene and then transported, via ambulance, to Lake West Hospital. Eventually, he was life-flighted to MetroHealth Medical Center for further care, and was released later that same morning.

{¶9} Upon hearing that Mr. Lennox had been released, Detective Doyle, of the Eastlake Police Department, sent Patrolman Tanner to escort Mr. Lennox from his parents' home to the station for an interview. Patrolman Tanner made it clear to Mr. Lennox and his parents that Mr. Lennox was not under arrest, but that Detective Doyle was eager to speak with him that afternoon. Mr. Lennox accompanied Patrolman Tanner in a marked police cruiser, while his parents followed in their own vehicle. Mr. Lennox participated in a 15-minute interview with Detective Doyle and was then taken home by his parents.

{¶10} The following day, Eastlake Police arrested Mr. Lennox and charged him with one count of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide in violation of R.C. 2903.06(A)(1)(a), a second degree felony; one count of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide in violation R.C. 2903.06(A)(2)(a), a third degree felony; one count of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol, a Drug of Abuse, or a Combination of Them in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a), a first degree misdemeanor; one count of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol, a Drug of Abuse, or a Combination of Them in violation R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(b), a first degree misdemeanor; and one count of Operating a Vehicle While Under the Influence of a Listed Controlled Substance or a Listed Metabolite of a Controlled Substance in violation of R.C. 4511.19(a)(1)(j)(viii)(I), a first degree misdemeanor. Mr. Lennox was also charged with three minor traffic violations, which were dismissed prior to trial.

{¶11} Mr. Lennox pleaded not guilty to all charges, and filed a suggestion of incompetency to stand trial and a motion to suppress evidence. He was examined by a court psychologist, a competency hearing was held, and he was found competent to stand trial.

{¶12} Mr. Lennox's motion to suppress was also denied after hearing. Waiving his right to a jury trial, his case was tried to the bench over three days. The trial court found Mr. Lennox guilty of all charges, and, after a pre-sentence investigation, he was sentenced to a four-year term of imprisonment on Count One, which was merged with Count Two. He was also sentenced to serve a six-month term on Count Three, which was merged with Counts Four and Five. The trial court ordered the sentences to run concurrently for a total period of incarceration of four years.

{¶13} Mr. Lennox now timely appeals his conviction and raises three assignments of error:

{¶14} "[1.] The evidence is constitutionally insufficient to support a conviction on Aggravated Vehicular Homicide in Count 1 on either prong --- the OVI predicate, or whether alcohol was the proximate cause of the crash --- it is constitutionally sufficient to convict on Vehicular Homicide in Count 2.

{ΒΆ15} "[2.] The trial court erred in overruling Lennox's motion to suppress the evidence of his interview with Detective Doyle ...


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