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State v. Dixon

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District

June 27, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MELVIN DIXON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Case No. 07 CR 170.

For Plaintiff-Appellee: Attorney Paul J. Gains Prosecuting Attorney Attorney Ralph M. Rivera Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.

For Defendant-Appellant: Attorney J. Dean Carro University of Akron-School of Law Legal Clinic – Appellate Review Office Akron.

JUDGES: Hon. Mary DeGenaro Hon. Joseph J. Vukovich Hon. Cheryl L. Waite.

OPINION

DeGENARO, P.J.

{¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Melvin Dixon, Jr. appeals the October 28, 2010, verdict of the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas convicting him of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery with accompanying firearm specifications and having a weapon under disability. Dixon first contends that the trial court erred when it permitted the prosecution to exercise a peremptory challenge in a racially discriminatory manner thereby violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Second, he asserts that the trial court erred when it did not allow him to introduce a State witness' prior conviction for obstruction of official business in order to impeach her testimony under Evid.R. 609(A)(3). Finally, Dixon contends the trial court erred by sentencing him consecutively on the offenses of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery as they were allied offenses of similar import and as such should have been merged at sentencing.

{¶2} Upon review, all of Dixon's arguments are meritless. First, the trial court's finding that no purposeful discrimination occurred by striking a prospective African-American juror was not clearly erroneous. Second, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to admit testimony pertaining to a prior conviction for obstruction of official business as that offense does not necessarily rely upon dishonesty or a false statement as contemplated by Evid.R. 609. Finally, the offenses of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery are not allied offenses of similar import, nor were they committed with the same animus, and as such were correctly not merged at sentencing. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Facts and Procedural History

{¶3} On February 8, 2007, Melvin Dixon, Jr. was indicted by the Mahoning County Grand Jury on counts of aggravated murder (R.C. 2903.01(B)(F)), an unclassified felony, with an accompanying R.C. 2941.145(A) firearm specification; aggravated robbery (R.C. 2911.01(A)(1)(B)), a first-degree felony, with an accompanying R.C. 2941.145(A) firearm specification; and having a weapon while under a disability (R.C. 2923.13(A)(3)(B)), a third-degree felony. The indictment alleged that Dixon purposely caused the death of Edward Agee while committing or attempting to commit, or in fleeing immediately after committing or attempting to commit, aggravated robbery.

{¶4} The case proceeded to a jury trial on October 25, 2010 on the aggravated murder charge and the aggravated robbery charges; Dixon consented to bifurcation and waived a jury on the weapons under disability charge.

{¶5} During voir dire, the State exercised a peremptory challenge removing prospective juror McDuffie, an African American. Dixon later objected arguing that there was no reasonable basis for this challenge. The State countered that McDuffie was excused because she had a tendency to interrupt. He did not want her to bully the room and prevent other jurors from fulfilling their duty and expressing their own opinion. The trial court overruled Dixon's objection.

{¶6} At trial the following facts were adduced. On May 2, 2006, Dixon contacted Jamaad Jackson about planning a robbery. Later that evening, Dixon, Jackson, Maurice Brooks and Reggie Everson drove to Auto Zone with the intention of committing a robbery. Brooks waited in the vehicle around the corner while the other three men entered the Auto Zone wearing masks and carrying guns. Inside the store, Jackson raised a gun at the victim-employee, Edward Agee, and a struggle ensued between the two. Dixon approached the struggle and shot Agee. The three fled the store, got into the waiting car and returned to the home of Erika Hallman, the mother of Dixon's child. Dixon was arrested on February 2, 2007.

{¶7} Hallman testified during the State's case. In an unrelated criminal proceeding, she had been convicted of obstruction of official business, a misdemeanor. Dixon argued that Evid.R. 609 allowed him to cross-examine Hallman about this prior conviction in order to impeach her credibility. The trial court denied his request. Dixon did not offer a formal objection to this ruling; however, he made a proffer for purposes of appeal.

{¶8} After the State rested, the defense made a Crim.R. 29 motion for acquittal, which was overruled. The defense then rested without presenting any witnesses. The jury found Dixon guilty of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and both accompanying firearm specifications. On the bifurcated charge of having a weapon under disability, the trial court found Dixon guilty on that charge based on the evidence produced during the jury trial.

{¶9} Sentencing was held on November 29, 2010. Dixon was sentenced to life without parole on the aggravated murder charge; ten years on the aggravated robbery charge; and five years on the weapons under disability charge, to be served consecutively. Dixon was also sentenced to three years on the firearm specifications which the trial court ...


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