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State of Ohio v. Christina M. Williams

December 10, 2012

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTINA M. WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



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

Cite as State v. Williams,

DECISION AND

JUDGMENT ENTRY

{¶1} Christina Williams appeals several of her convictions resulting from the robbery and murder of Gary Markins, Sr. and Nina Mannering. First she argues that she was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel because her attorney failed to move to suppress statements she made during a police interrogation. However, because of the overwhelming amount of other evidence that implicates her in the crimes, Williams cannot show that counsel's performance prejudiced her at trial. Therefore, we overrule her first assignment of error.

{¶2} Williams also claims that her convictions for the aggravated murder of Nina Mannering are against the manifest weight of the evidence and not supported by sufficient evidence because she could not have reasonably foreseen Mannering's death. However, Mannering's death was not an extraordinary or surprising result given that Williams and an armed co-conspirator went to Markins, Sr.'s home to commit aggravated robbery and burglary knowing that Mannering was present. Therefore, it was foreseeable that Mannering could have been killed in such a crime. Williams' convictions were neither against the manifest weight of the evidence nor supported by insufficient evidence.

{¶3} Finally, Williams contends that her convictions for aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary should merge with her convictions for aggravated murder because they are allied offenses of similar import and were committed with a single animus. Because it is possible to commit aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, as well as aggravated burglary, with the same conduct they are offenses of similar import. However, Williams can still be sentenced on all the offenses if she committed the crimes separately or with a separate animus. Therefore, we remand the case to the trial court to determine whether her convictions should merge for sentencing.

I. OVERVIEW

{¶4} On the morning of January 8, 2010, Gary Markins, Sr. and Nina Mannering were shot to death in his home. At the time, Christina Williams was dating Gary Markins, Jr., and they were both living in her trailer located behind Markins, Sr.'s home. Although Williams had previously lived with Markins, Sr. in his house, Mannering and her young daughter had moved in shortly before his death. Markins, Jr. was estranged from his father and had not seen him for some time prior to his death. Markins, Jr. and Williams were both addicted to drugs and Markins, Sr. would supply Williams with drugs, which she would share with Markins, Jr.

{¶5} Williams was indicted on eleven counts relating to the robbery and deaths of Markins, Sr. and Mannering. At trial the state presented evidence to show that Williams, Markins, Jr., her cousin Cecil Conley, and his friend Roy, devised a plan to burglarize and rob Gary Markins, Sr. The state claimed that Williams provided information about how to gain access to Markins, Sr.'s home, as well as information regarding his safe, firearm, and drugs within the residence. The state also claimed that Conley, with Williams' aid, entered the home and murdered Gary Markins, Sr. and Nina Mannering. And after the homicides, Conley contacted Williams, who along with Markins, Jr. and Roy, helped him flee the scene.

{¶6} Prior to trial, Mannering participated in three interviews with law enforcement in which she gave inconsistent statements and provided different accounts of what happened. During its case-in-chief, the state showed videos of these interviews to the jury and entered them into evidence. Williams also testified at trial and denied any involvement in the planning and commission of the crime.

{¶7} The jury convicted Williams of two counts of aggravated murder for the death Gary Markins, Sr. and two counts of aggravated murder for the death of Nina Mannering. She was also found guilty of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, as well as other offenses unrelated to this appeal.*fn1

II. ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

{¶8} Williams presents the following four assignments of error:

{¶9} 1. "THE PERFORMANCE OF TRIAL COUNSEL WAS DEFICIENT, AND DEPRIVED MS. WILLIAMS OF THE RIGHT TO EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL GUARANTEED BY THE SIXTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, AND SECTION 10, ARTICLE I OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION."

{¶10} 2. "THE CONVICTIONS OF CHRISTINA WILLIAMS FOR TWO COUNTS OF AGGRAVATED MURDER, COUNTS TWO AND FOUR, WERE NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE, AND THUS THOSE CONVICTIONS WERE OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF MS. WILLIAMS' DUE PROCESS RIGHTS. FIFTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION; SECTIONS 5 AND 16, ARTICLE I OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION."

{¶11} 3. "THE CONVICTIONS OF MS. WILLIAMS FOR TWO COUNTS OF AGGRAVATED MURDER, COUNTS TWO AND FOUR, ARE AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE, IN VIOLATION OF THE FIFTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND SECTION 16, ARTICLE I OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION."

{¶12} 4. "THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT IMPOSED SEPARATE SENTENCES FOR OFFENSES THAT AROSE FROM THE SAME CONDUCT, WERE NOT COMMITTED SEPARATELY OR WITH A SEPARATE ANIMUS, AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN MERGED FOR SENTENCING PURPOSES UNDER R.C. 2941.25."

III. INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL

{¶13} Williams argues that she was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial. She bases this claim on her trial counsel's failure to file a motion to suppress her statements from the January 13, 2010 meeting with Detective Conkel. During this meeting she made several incriminating statements, including that Conley planned to rob Markins, Sr. at gunpoint and that she attempted to help Conley enter the home. Williams contends that she did not effectively waive her right to counsel under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments before being interrogated. Therefore, she maintains that her statements should have been suppressed.

A. Legal Standard

{¶14} To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must show (1) deficient performance by counsel, that is, performance falling below an objective standard of reasonable representation; and (2) prejudice, meaning that there is a reasonable probability that but for counsel's errors, the proceeding's result would have been different. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-688, 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); State v. Bradley, 42 Ohio St.3d 136, 538 N.E.2d 373 (1989), paragraphs two and three of the syllabus. In applying these standards we "must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance." Strickland at 689. "The benchmark for judging any claim of ineffectiveness must be whether counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result." Id. at 686.

{¶15} "Failing to file a motion to suppress does not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel per se. To establish ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to file a motion to suppress, a defendant must prove that there was a basis to suppress the evidence in question." (Citation omitted.) State v. Brown, 115 Ohio St.3d 55, 2007- Ohio-4837, 873 N.E.2d 858, ¶ 65. Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Ohio has "rejected claims of ineffective counsel when counsel failed to file or withdrew a suppression motion when doing so was a tactical decision, there was no reasonable probability of success, or there was no prejudice to the defendant." State v. Nields, 93 Ohio St.3d 6, 34, 752 N.E.2d 859 (2001).

B. Deficient Performance

1. The Fifth Amendment

{¶16} The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that an individual shall not "be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." "It has been the consistent view of the United States Supreme Court that the Fifth Amendment protects one accused of a crime from being coerced into testifying against himself. In order to assure that any statements made by a criminal defendant are voluntary, Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, requires that the accused be apprised of his rights prior to questioning." State v. Wiles, 59 Ohio St.3d 71, 82-83, 571 N.E.2d 97 (1991). "Miranda thus declared that an accused has a Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation." Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 482, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981).

{¶17} "[T]he requirement that police officers administer Miranda warnings applies only when a suspect is subjected to both custody and interrogation." State v. Dunn, 131 Ohio St.3d 325, 2012-Ohio-1008, 964 N.E.2d 1037, ¶ 24, citing Miranda, supra. "The Court in Miranda required suppression of many statements that would have been admissible under traditional due process analysis by presuming that statements made while in custody and without adequate warnings were protected by the Fifth Amendment." Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 304, 105 S.Ct. 1285, 84 L.Ed.2d 222 (1985). "Failure to administer Miranda warnings creates a presumption of compulsion. ...


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