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State of Ohio v. Chrystal N. Dillon

February 5, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHRYSTAL N. DILLON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



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

Cite as State v. Dillon,

DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

{¶1} Chrystal Dillon appeals her convictions for child endangering and argues there was insufficient evidence to support them. Specifically, she contends the state did not prove that she acted recklessly or created a substantial risk to her children's health or safety. We agree. The evidence concerning Dillon's lack of supervision prior to the fire that killed her daughter showed that Dillon was briefly in an adjacent room while her children played on a secure deck. During the short time she was not watching them; the children left the deck and started a fire in an adjacent structure. However, the state did not introduce any evidence to suggest Dillon left her children alone for an unreasonable period of time. Because no rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that she acted recklessly or created a substantial risk to her children's safety, there was insufficient evidence to support her convictions.

I. FACTS

{¶2} This case arises from a fire that tragically killed two-year-old Bianca Jackson. Four-year-old Josh McCullors, Bianca's brother, was also in the building when the fire began, but escaped unharmed. As a result of this fire, the state charged Chrystal Dillon, the children's mother, with one count of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of child endangering. She pleaded not guilty and the case proceeded to trial.

{¶3} At trial, the state contended that before the fire the two children were left unsupervised to play on the deck of the family home. The state alleged that after Dillon went into a bedroom and left the children unattended, Josh and Bianca and entered an abandoned structure next to their home and Josh started the fire. The jury convicted Dillon of two counts of child endangering, in violation of R.C. 2919.22(A)&(E)(2)(c) for Bianca and R.C. 2919.22(A)&(E)(2)(a) for Josh. The jury was hung on the involuntary manslaughter charge. The court sentenced Dillon to a six month term on each count to be served concurrently. Dillon now appeals these convictions.

II. ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

{¶4} Dillion presents two assignments of error for our review:

{¶5} 1. "THE JURY'S VERDICT FINDING DEFENDANT-APPELLANT GUILTY OF TWO COUNTS OF ENDANGERING CHILDREN, A FELONY OF THE THIRD DEGREE AND MISDEMEANOR OF THE FIRST DEGREE, IS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE."

{¶6} 2. "THE JURY'S VERDICT FINDING THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT GUILTY OF TWO COUNTS OF ENDANGERING CHILDREN IS AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE."

III. SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

{¶7} Initially, Dillion argues that there is insufficient evidence to support her convictions for child endangering. She contends that the state did not prove she had the culpable mental state, i.e. recklessness, required to convict her of child endangering. Likewise, she also claims that the evidence presented at trial did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that her temporary lack of supervision created a substantial risk of harm.

A. Standard of Review

{¶8} "An appellate court's function when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 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, 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 574 N.E.2d 492 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus (superseded by statute and constitutional amendment on other grounds).

{¶9} This test raises a question of law and does not allow the appellate court to weigh the evidence. State v. Osman, 4th Dist. No. 09CA36, 2011-Ohio-4626, ¶ 39. A sufficiency of the evidence challenge tests whether the state's case is legally adequate to go to a jury in that it contains prima facie evidence of all of the elements of the ...


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