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State v. Gatliff

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District

July 1, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SHANNON BLAINE GATLIFF, Defendant-Appellant.

CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM CLERMONT COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. 2012CR0020

D. Vincent Faris, Clermont County Prosecuting Attorney, Judith A. Brant, for plaintiff-appellee.

Christine Y. Jones, for defendant-appellant.

OPINION

HENDRICKSON, P.J.

{¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Shannon Blaine Gatliff, appeals his conviction in the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas for felonious assault. For the reasons stated below, we affirm his conviction.

{¶ 2} On January 11, 2012, appellant was indicted for felonious assault. The charge arose out of allegations that appellant assaulted Christina Freeman outside Christina's restaurant on December 24, 2011. A jury trial began on April 26, 2012, where several witnesses testified regarding the events of that night.

{¶ 3} The first witness to testify was Christina who explained that during the evening of December 24, 2011, she was at her restaurant, the Backyard Inn Bar & Grill. Christina had closed the restaurant early and invited a few of her family members and friends to come by after the business shut down for the night. Around 10:00 p.m., appellant, his sister (Amanda), and his brother-in-law came into the bar through a back entrance. Christina stated that she had been in a relationship with appellant for the past several months and the couple had broken up about ten days earlier. Christina told appellant to leave and followed him to the back door to ensure that he left the property.

{¶ 4} Christina testified that once outside the bar, Amanda became verbally abusive towards her. The two women then got involved in a physical altercation. Christina stated that the pair fell to the ground and "wrestled around." She explained that during the scuffle, Amanda's hands were tangled in Christina's hair and Amanda was unable to hit her. After Amanda released Christina's hair, appellant jumped on top of Christina, and repeatedly struck her in the face with his fist. Christina stated that he hit her in the mouth, her right eye, and on the right side of her face. Eventually, appellant stopped hitting her and she was able to get up. As Christina was walking back to the bar, Amanda pulled her hair and she fell to the ground on her right elbow. As a result of the fight, Christina suffered a fractured orbital floor of the right eye, loosened teeth, and lip, cheek, and elbow injuries. Christina testified that she had reconstructive surgery on her right eye and experiences double vision.

{¶ 5} During Christina's testimony, the restaurant's surveillance video was shown. Christina explained that she has a surveillance video system throughout her restaurant and after the fight, police obtained the video recording of the restaurant that captured the fight. The police did not obtain the video of the interior of the restaurant. The video was in black and white, had no audio, and showed only what occurred outside of the restaurant. The video captured the initial argument between Christina and Amanda as well as the ensuing physical altercation between Christina and Amanda.

{¶ 6} The next witness to testify was Christina's mother who explained that she was at the restaurant on December 24, 2011. She stated that initially, a fight broke out between Amanda and Christina. During the fight, the women fell to the ground and both girls had their hands in the other's hair. Appellant then came over and struck Christina in the mouth. Christina's mother testified that one of appellant's hands was on Christina's throat while the other hand was hitting her face. Ultimately, Christina's mother called 911 and the 911 recording was introduced at trial where Christina's mother stated that appellant had beat up her daughter.

{¶ 7} The state also had other witnesses who testified that they observed the fight between Christina and appellant and some of them admitted consuming alcohol prior to the altercation. All the witnesses stated that appellant struck Christina and caused all her injuries except the elbow injury. The witnesses agreed that the fight between Christina and Amanda did not cause any of Christina's injuries because the women only had their hands in each other's hair.

{¶ 8} Finally, the state presented the testimony of a jail inmate who was located in the same section of the jail as appellant and also had criminal charges pending. The inmate stated that appellant revealed that he knew where the cameras were located at Christina's restaurant and admitted to assaulting her. Specifically, appellant stated that he "pound[ed]" Christina's face "a couple times into the ground."

{¶ 9} Defense counsel presented the testimony of Amanda and appellant's brother-in-law, who denied that appellant caused the injuries to Christina. Appellant's brother-in-law stated that Christina started the fight when she pushed appellant. He explained that Christina "bull rushed" Amanda into the truck and they both struck the vehicle very hard. Amanda agreed that they hit a truck before the pair fell to the ground and that she was kicking towards Christina during the fight to free herself. She stated that during the struggle she kicked and punched Christina in the face. Both Amanda and appellant's brother-in-law testified that appellant was trying to protect Christina when he fell into the pile. Additionally, they agreed that appellant never punched Christina.

{¶ 10} Lastly, appellant testified in his own defense and denied causing any of the injuries to Christina. Appellant stated that he and Christina were in a relationship, had lived together, and had broken up shortly before the alleged assault. Appellant received a text message from Christina requesting that he retrieve his clothes from her home. In response to this text, he went to Christina's restaurant on December 24 to make arrangements to get his belongings. Upon arriving at the bar, appellant stated that Christina was intoxicated. According to appellant, a verbal altercation ensued as he was leaving the bar between Christina and Amanda, and at some point Christina kicked appellant. Christina and Amanda started fighting and Amanda kicked Christina in the mouth. He stated that he tried to break up the fight between Christina and Amanda but tripped and fell down to the ground. Appellant then got entangled in the fight between Christina and Amanda but denied that he ever choked or hurt Christina.

{¶ 11} At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found appellant guilty as charged. On May 10, 2012, the trial court held a telephone conference with counsel, where the court informed counsel that the court's bailiff received information that one of the jurors might have watched a "YouTube" video of the altercation during the trial. Subsequently, defense counsel filed a motion for a new trial and an evidentiary hearing. The court held a hearing regarding the motion for a new trial and ultimately denied both of defendant's motions. On June 22, 2012, appellant was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

{¶ 12} Appellant now appeals, asserting eight assignments of error.

{¶ 13} Assignment of Error No. 1:

{¶ 14} THE JURY ERRED TO THE PREJUDICE OF THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT BY FINDING HIM GUILTY OF FELONIOUS ASSAULT, AS THOSE FINDINGS WERE NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE.

{¶ 15} Assignment of Error No. 2:

{¶ 16} THE JURY ERRED TO THE PREJUDICE OF THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT BY FINDING HIM GUILTY OF FELONIOUS ASSAULT, AS THOSE FINDINGS WERE CONTRARY TO LAW.

{¶ 17} Assignment of Error No. 3:

{¶ 18} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED TO THE PREJUDICE OF THE DEFENDANT-APPELLANT BY OVERRULING HIS MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL UNDER OHIO CRIMINAL PROCEDURE RULE 29.

{¶ 19} Appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction, his conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence, and the trial court erred in overruling his Crim.R. 29 motions for acquittal. Specifically, appellant argues his conviction is in error because the witnesses' testimony was contradictory as to his involvement in the fight and the evidence established that his sister was the primary person engaged in the fight.

{¶ 20} Crim.R. 29(A) provides, "[t]he court on motion of the defendant or on its own motion, after the evidence on either side is closed, shall order the entry of a judgment of acquittal * * * if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction of such offense or offenses." A Crim.R. 29(A) motion tests the sufficiency of the evidence. State v. Stutz, 12th Dist. No. CA2010-06-013, 2011-Ohio-3517, ¶ 11. An appellate court reviews the denial of a Crim.R. 29 motion under the same standard used for reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim. State v. Clements, 12th Dist. No. CA2009-11-277, 2010-Ohio-4801, ¶ 17. See also State v. Carter, 72 Ohio St.3d 545, 553 (1995).

{¶ 21} Whether the evidence presented at trial is legally sufficient to sustain a verdict is a question of law. State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386 (1997). When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence underlying a criminal conviction, an appellate court examines the evidence in order to determine whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Paul, 12th Dist. No. CA2011-10-026, 2012-Ohio-3205, ¶ 9. Therefore, "[t]he 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." Id.

{¶ 22} On the other hand, a manifest weight of the evidence challenge examines the "inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence, offered at a trial, to support one side of the issue rather than the other." State v. Barnett, 12th Dist. No. CA2011-09-177, 2012-Ohio-2372, ¶ 14. To determine whether a conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence, the reviewing court must look at the entire record, weigh the evidence and all reasonable inferences, consider the credibility of the witnesses, and determine whether in resolving the conflicts in the evidence, 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. State v. Graham, 12th Dist. No. CA2008-07-095, 2009-Ohio-2814, ¶ 66. In reviewing the evidence, an appellate court must be mindful that the jury, as the original trier of fact, was in the best position to judge the credibility of witnesses and determ ine the weight to be given to the evidence. State v. Blankenburg, 197 Ohio App.3d 201, 2012-Ohio-1289, ¶ 114 (12th Dist.)

{¶ 23} "Because sufficiency is required to take a case to the jury, a finding that a conviction is supported by the weight of the evidence must necessarily include a finding of sufficiency." State v. Hart, 12th Dist. No. CA2011-03-008, 2012-Ohio-1896, ΒΆ 43. Accordingly, a determination that a conviction is supported by the weight of ...


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