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State v. Edwards

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District

July 15, 2013

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
DAVID EDWARDS Appellant

APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 10CR081459

APPEARANCES: PAUL GRIFFIN, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

DENNIS P. WILL, Prosecuting Attorney, and MARY R. SLANCZKA, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

BETH WHITMORE, Judge.

(¶1} Appellant, David Edwards, appeals from the judgment of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.

I

(¶2} Edwards was living with his long-time girlfriend, Ramona Gail Sturtevant. Sturtevant is the paternal grandmother of J.S., who would frequently spend time at Sturtevant's house after school and on occasion would spend the night. J.S. and Edwards were friends and had a close, loving relationship. This changed around the time J.S. turned ten. At that time, J.S. became aggressive toward Edwards and began to avoid him.

(¶3} In June 2010, J.S. reported to school officials that Edwards had abused her. While the school officials did not notify her mother, J.S. told her that same day. Her mother immediately contacted the police. J.S. was interviewed by a detective and a social worker from Children's Services. Based on that interview, Edwards was indicted on one count of gross sexual imposition ("GSI"), in violation of R.C. 2907.05(A)(4), a felony of the third degree.

(¶4} While the case remained pending, J.S. attended regular counseling sessions. In August 2011, J.S. met with an assistant prosecutor to prepare for trial. At this meeting, J.S. disclosed additional acts of abuse by Edwards. Based on this meeting, Edwards was indicted on one count of rape, in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b), a felony of the first degree, and an additional count of GSI, in violation R.C. 2907.05(A)(4), a felony of the third degree.

(¶5} A jury convicted Edwards of the two counts of GSI, but found him not guilty of rape. The court sentenced him to four years in prison. Edwards now appeals and raises four assignments of error for our review.

II

Assignment of Error Number One

THE GUILTY VERDICTS ARE AGAINST THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE IN VIOLATION OF MR. EDWARDS'S RIGHTS UNDER THE FIFTH, SIXTH, AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION, AND ARTICLE 1, SECTION 10 OF THE OHIO STATE CONSTITUTION.

(¶6} In his first assignment of error, Edwards argues that the State failed to produce sufficient evidence to support his convictions for gross sexual imposition. Specifically, Edwards argues that the State failed to produce any evidence to establish that he had sexual contact with J.S. for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.

(¶7} "'[S]ufficiency' is a term of art meaning that legal standard which is applied to determine whether the case may go to the jury or whether the evidence is legally sufficient to support the jury verdict as a matter of law." State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386 (1997), quoting Black's Law Dictionary 1433 (6th Ed.1990). "In essence, sufficiency is a test of adequacy." Thompkins at 386. When reviewing a conviction for sufficiency, evidence must be viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution. State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus. The pertinent question is whether "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt." Id.

(¶8} "Whether the evidence is legally sufficient to sustain a verdict is a question of law." Thompkins at 386, citing State v. Robinson, 162 Ohio St. 486 (1955). This Court, therefore, reviews questions of sufficiency de novo. State v. Salupo, 177 Ohio App.3d 354, 2008-Ohio-3721, ¶ 4 (9th Dist.).

(¶9} R.C. 2907.05(A)(4) provides, in relevant part, that:

No person shall have sexual contact with another, not the spouse of the offender; cause another, not the spouse of the offender, to have sexual contact with the offender * * * when * * * [t]he other person * * * is less than thirteen years of age, whether or not the offender knows the age of that person.

"Sexual contact" is defined as "any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person." R.C. 2907.01(B).

(¶10} "[I]n the absence of direct testimony regarding sexual arousal or gratification, the trier of fact may infer a purpose of sexual arousal or gratification from the 'type, nature and circumstances of the contact, along with the personality of the defendant.'" State v. Antoline, 9th Dist. Lorain No. 02CA008100, 2003-Ohio-1130, ¶ 64, quoting State v. Cobb, 81 Ohio App.3d 179, 185 (9th Dist.1991). "From these facts the trier of facts may infer what the ...


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