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State v. Barksdale

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District

July 3, 2013

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
RONALD BARKSDALE Defendant-Appellant

Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No. 2012-CR-389

MATHIAS H. HECK, JR., by R. LYNN NOTHSTINE, Atty. Reg. #0061560, Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office, Appellate Division, Montgomery County Courts Building, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee

LUCAS W. WILDER, Atty. Reg. #0074057, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant

OPINION

DONOFRIO, J.

{¶1} Defendant-appellant Ronald Barksdale appeals his conviction in the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court for felonious assault following a jury trial.

{¶2} On January 20, 2012, Linda Quarterman was at her friend April Craver's house at 5642 Hoover Avenue in Dayton. Craver had invited people to her home that evening for "cocktails." Barksdale, with whom Quarterman had a romantic relationship in the past, was also there. Barksdale and Quarterman got into an argument in the front room of the house away from the other guests which resulted in Quarterman suffering a broken nose.

{¶3} On March 14, 2012, a Montgomery County grand jury indicted Barksdale on one count of felonious assault in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(1), a second-degree felony. Barksdale pleaded not guilty, the trial court appointed him counsel, and the case proceeded to discovery and other pretrial matters. The case culminated in a two-day jury trial occurring on July 23-24, 2012.

{¶4} A police officer, Officer Joseph Heyob, who responded to a 911 call from the house, testified about finding Quarterman lying curled up on the floor and bleeding from her face. (Tr. 83.) Although she did not witness the assault, Craver testified about the events of that evening in general. Nathan Via, a detective with the Special Victims Unit, testified about taking pictures of Quarterman after the incident. Quarterman testified that Barksdale punched her after she rebuffed his attempts to rekindle their relationship. Barksdale testified in his own defense, claiming that Quarterman was the one trying to re-establish their relationship and that he rejected her. He denied punching her and claimed that she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

{¶5} The jury found Barksdale guilty and the trial court sentenced him to a four-year term of imprisonment. This appeal followed.

{¶6} Barksdale raises four assignments of error, the first of which states:

THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ALLOWING THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE VICTIM TO BE ADMITTED INTO EVIDENCE.

{¶7} Barksdale argues that the trial court erred in admitting into evidence six pictures depicting the injuries to Quarterman's face. Barksdale argues that the pictures were not properly authenticated. Since the parties stipulated that Quarterman suffered serious physical harm, Barksdale also argues that their admission was irrelevant and served only to play on the jurors' emotions and bolster Quarterman's credibility.

{¶8} "The admission of photographs is left to the sound discretion of the trial court. State v. Biros (1997), 78 Ohio St.3d 426, 444, 678 N.E.2d 891, citing State v. Landrum (1990), 53 Ohio St.3d 107, 121, 559 N.E.2d 710. The trial court, and this court on appeal, must determine whether the probative value of the photographs in question is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to the defendant. State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, 257, 513 N.E.2d 267. The mere fact that a photograph is gruesome is not sufficient to render it per se inadmissible. State v. Woodards (1966), 6 Ohio St.2d 14, 25, 215 N.E.2d 568." State v. Free, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 15901, 1998 WL 57373 (Feb. 13, 1998).

{¶9} As the state correctly points out, the photographs were properly authenticated. Quarterman testified that each of the photographs showed the injuries that resulted from Barksdale punching her in the face. (Tr. 149-155.) She testified that the first three photos taken a couple of days after the assault fairly and accurately reflected her injuries. (Tr. 152.) The last three photos, Exhibits 4 through 6, were taken by Nathan Via, a detective with the Special Victims Unit, eleven days after the incident. (Tr. 152.) She testified that those too fairly and accurately represented her injuries. (Tr. 155.)

{¶10} Barksdale's argument that the photographs were not relevant also falls short. Barksdale has not cited any case law authority in support of his argument. While it is true that the photographs were unnecessary to demonstrate that Quarterman had suffered serious physical harm since that had been stipulated to, the photographs were relevant to another key element of the case - mens rea. Appellate courts have upheld a trial court's admission of a victim's injuries in order to establish mens rea. State v. Rogers, 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-970190, 1998 WL 321300 (June 19, 1998); see also State v. Free, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 15901, 1998 WL 57373 (Feb. 13, 1998) (involving felonious assault with a motor vehicle).

{¶11} Accordingly, Barkdale's first assignment of error is without merit.

{¶12} Barksdale's second assignment of error states:

THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION BY OVERRULING MR. BARKSDALE'S MOTION FOR CONTINUANCE TO COMPEL THE APPEARANCE OF TWO MATERIAL WITNESSES.

{¶13} Barksdale had subpoenaed two witnesses, Brendan Compton and James Luzinski, to testify at his trial about Quarterman's alleged drug and alcohol intoxication on the night of the assault. They did not appear and the trial court denied Barksdale's motion for a continuance in order to get them to appear. Barksdale argues that ruling was in error since those witnesses would have provided exculpatory and/or impeachment evidence.

{¶14} "The decision of whether to grant a continuance is a matter entrusted to the sound discretion of the trial court. State v. Unger (1981), 67 Ohio St.2d 65, syllabus. Therefore, a reviewing court will not reverse a trial court's decision to deny a motion for a continuance absent an abuse of discretion. Id. at 67. 'There are no mechanical tests for deciding when a denial of a continuance is so arbitrary as to violate due process. The answer must be found in the circumstances present in every case, particularly in the reasons presented to the trial judge at the time the request is denied.' Ungar v. Sarafite (1964), 376 U.S. 575, 589, 84 S.Ct. 841, 849, 11 L.Ed.2d 921, quoted in State v. Unger, supra, at 67 Ohio St.2d 67." State v. Fairman, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 24299, 2011-Ohio-6489, ¶ 18.

{¶15} "Factors that a trial court must consider when ruling on a motion for a continuance include: (1) the length of the requested continuance; (2) any prior continuances; (3) the inconvenience to the litigants, witnesses, opposing counsel and the court; (4) reasons for the delay; (5) whether the defendant contributed to the delay; (6) and any other factors relevant to the unique facts of that case. State v. Unger, at 67-68; State v. Landrum (1990), 53 Ohio St.3d 107, 115" Fairman at ¶ 19.

{¶16} The trial transcript reflects the following exchange concerning Barksdale's attempt to obtain a continuance:

MR. WILMES: Yes, Your Honor. I, at my client's insistence, issued subpoenas for Brenda Compton and I think a James Luzinski (phonetic). I understand they were duly served and have not appeared. Therefore, we'd ask for a continuance until they can be located and brought [in].
Now, in all candor, I would indicate that I've never talked with them, that we sent a private investigator out to try to find them and interview them at the Defendant's behest, and that he was unable to make the contact with them. So I'm not certain what they'll say, but I think Mr. Barksdale would indicate that at least one, or maybe both, will testify to the intoxicated drug induced state of the victim the night of the incident. I think that's what he's going to contend they would testify if they were here. Is that right?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
MR. WILMES: And for those reasons, her credibility would be impeached. And for those reasons, we'd ask that the Court continue this trial until they can be located and brought in. Thank you.
THE COURT: Ms. Huber.
MS. HUBER: Thank you, Your Honor. The State would object to any continuance in this matter. This case has been pending since I believe the indictment was in March. The first we learned of the existence of these witnesses was last week. The State has received no information other than what was just stated, that they were even present the night of the evidence, or what have you. And it doesn't appear that anything they would have to add would go to any material issue of facts.
THE COURT: For the record, I'll ask the bailiff.
Ms. Peterson, you have checked the document, number one, and determined that those subpoenas were served on these individuals, correct?
THE BAILIFF: That's correct, Your Honor.
THE COURT: And you have made a check of the hallway and the surrounding areas here just momentarily ago, and they -- there is no one present by that name or that answers to that name, correct?
THE BAILIFF: That's correct, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Thank you very much.
The Court would overrule the motion to continue. We will proceed with the Defendant's case.

(Tr. 203-205.)

{¶17} Applying the Unger factors to this case, it does not appear that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Barksdale's motion for a continuance. The length of requested continuance seemed indefinite as it was unclear where and when the witnesses could be brought in to testify. There was some measure of inconvenience to the litigants, witnesses, opposing counsel, and the court as the state had rested its case and the jury was ready to hear the defendant's side. Barksdale had already requested and received two continuances prior to the commencement of trial. Moreover, it is uncertain how helpful their testimony would have been. Barksdale suggests they would have testified about Quarterman's intoxicated state. However, it is undisputed that no one ...


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