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State of Ohio v. Lawrence Hemphill

October 20, 2011


Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-542662

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mary Eileen Kilbane, A.J.:

Cite as State v. Hemphill,




BEFORE: Kilbane, A.J., Blackmon, J., and Celebrezze, J.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant, Lawrence Hemphill, appeals from his convictions for drug trafficking and possession of criminal tools. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

{¶2} On October 7, 2010, defendant and co-defendant, Anderson Baird, were indicted pursuant to a four-count indictment. Counts 1-3 pertained to both defendant and Baird and charged them with trafficking in less than 200 grams of marijuana in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(1) and 2925.03(A)(2), and possession of criminal tools in violation of R.C. 2923.24, with a furthermore clause that the tools (an electronic scale and $128) were intended to be used for drug trafficking. These charges also contained specifications for the forfeiture of an electronic scale and $128. Count 4 pertained solely to Baird and charged him with tampering with evidence. Defendant and Baird both pled not guilty and the matter proceeded to a joint trial on January 5, 2011.

Defendant waived his right to a jury trial as to the forfeiture specifications and the remaining charges were tried to a jury.

{¶3} The State's evidence demonstrated that on September 29, 2010, Cleveland Police Vice Unit Detective Benjamin McCully ("Detective McCully") arranged for a buy/bust, or a police monitored drug sale, using a confidential informant ("CI") at a beverage store located at the intersection of St. Clair Avenue, London Road, and Wayside Road. Prior to the sale, the CI, a woman who had worked with the police for six years and had been involved with approximately 75 other drug investigations, was searched for contraband at the Fifth District Police Station and was given buy money, a $20 bill that had been photocopied. At about 9:30 p.m., Detective McCully drove her to the beverage store in an unmarked vehicle and arranged for surveillance by other officers. At this point, Detective Charles Davis ("Detective Davis") observed the defendants walking in the parking lot of the London Liquor Store and talking to people but not going inside. He also observed Baird walk over to a Camaro, get inside, then quickly get back out less than one minute later. According to Detective Davis, this behavior was consistent with participation in drug sales.

{¶4} Detective McCully parked in the lot approximately 30 feet from the entrance and observed two males, identified as defendant and Baird, standing near the entrance. The CI approached the men, and defendant motioned for her to go around the corner with him. Detective McCully then repositioned his car in order to maintain continuous surveillance. At that point, Baird got into the passenger seat of a Camaro parked nearby, and defendant then made a hand-to-hand transaction with the CI.

{¶5} The CI signaled Detective McCully that the sale had been made. He drove out to the street and the CI then returned to his vehicle. She gave him two bags of marijuana, which Detective McCully then sealed and marked. According to Detective McCully, marijuana is typically packaged into $5 or $10 bags, and the quantity of marijuana was consistent with a $20 purchase.

{¶6} Defendant proceeded to his vehicle, a black Cadillac Seville, which was parked nearby. The Camaro pulled up to the Cadillac and Baird then got into the passenger seat of the Cadillac. The Cadillac proceeded eastward on Wayside Road, and Detective McCully signaled the takedown unit to stop the car and arrest the men.

{¶7} Detective McCully acknowledged that the CI is paid for each successful buy/bust, and that the CI has a criminal record. He also admitted that it was dark when the buy/bust occurred but stated that the area was well lit and that he could clearly see defendant make a hand-to-hand transaction with the CI.

{¶8} Detective Davis and his partner, Detective Gerald Crayton ("Detective Crayton"), conducted surveillance in an unmarked car during the buy/bust. According to Detective Crayton, the CI milled about, then engaged the defendants in conversation. After a black Cadillac left the parking lot and proceeded on Wayside Road, he and

Detective Davis were instructed to stop that vehicle. Detective Crayton's unit followed the Cadillac and activated its siren and lights. He observed the front passenger of the Cadillac throw something toward the sidewalk of a ...

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