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State of Ohio v. Deandre Williams

October 20, 2011

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
DEANDRE WILLIAMS DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-528916

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Conway Cooney, J.:

Cite as State v. Williams,

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

JUDGMENT:

AFFIRMED

BEFORE: Cooney, J., Stewart, P.J., and S. Gallagher, J.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant, Deandre Williams ("Williams"), appeals his convictions for murder and having a weapon under disability. We find no merit to the appeal and affirm.

{¶2} In September 2009, Williams was charged with murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A) and having a weapon under disability in violation of R.C. 2941.141(A). The charges included one- and three-year firearm specifications. The case proceeded to a jury trial where the following evidence was presented.

{¶3} On September 11, 2009, the victim, Deontae Williams ("Deontae"), was attending an outdoor party in the front yard at 959 Eddy Road when Williams arrived with his friends Joseph Shephard ("Shephard") and Dennis Watkins ("Watkins"). Almost immediately, Williams, Shephard, and Deontae began to fight and, within minutes, Deontae was shot in the back. He died as result of this single gunshot wound. Williams admitted he caused the gun to fire but claimed it accidently discharged during the "tussle."

{¶4} At the conclusion of trial, a jury found Williams guilty of murder with the firearm specifications, and the court found him guilty of having a weapon under disability. The court sentenced Williams to 15 years to life in prison for murder plus an additional three years for the firearm specifications, to be served consecutively. It also sentenced Williams to three years for having a weapon under disability to be served concurrently with the murder conviction.

{¶5} Williams appeals, raising seven assignments of error, which we address out of order.

Sufficiency and Manifest Weight of the Evidence

{¶6} In the fifth and sixth assignments of error, Williams argues the evidence was insufficient to support the murder conviction and that the murder conviction was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

{¶7} The test for sufficiency requires a determination of whether the prosecution met its burden of production at trial. State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 390, 1997-Ohio-52, 678 N.E.2d 541. The relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Jenks (1991), 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 574 N.E.2d 942, paragraph two of the syllabus.

{¶8} A challenge to the manifest weight of the evidence attacks the verdict in light of the State's burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Thompkins at 386-387. A reviewing court may reverse the judgment of conviction if it appears that the trier of fact "clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered." Id. A finding that a conviction was supported by the manifest weight of the evidence necessarily includes a finding of sufficiency. Id. at 388.

{¶9} Williams contends "no rational trier of fact could find that the essential element, 'purposely cause the death,' was proven beyond a reasonable doubt." He claims there is simply no evidence that Williams purposely caused Deontae's death.

{¶10} Several of Williams's friends testified that Williams offered Deontae a friendly handshake when he arrived, but Deontae rebuffed him and reached for a gun in his waistband. Fearing that Deontae might shoot them, Williams tried to grab the gun from Deontae and, as they struggled, the gun discharged accidently. However, several other unbiased witnesses told a different story.

{¶11} Two teenage neighbors, who observed the shooting from their front porch testified that Williams arrived with his friends and crossed the street to the party. One of the teenagers described them as follows:

"They was looking like they was up to something * * * a car pulled up and the way they was looking, I'm ...


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