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State v. Griffin

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District

July 19, 2013

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MALCOLM R. GRIFFIN, Defendant-Appellant.

Bryan Scott Hicks, Lebanon, Ohio, for Appellant.

Mark E. Kuhn, Scioto County Prosecutor and Shane Tieman, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

Hoover, J.

{¶ 1} This is an appeal of a conviction from the Scioto County Court of Common Pleas. On March 13, 2012, a jury convicted appellant Malcolm Griffin of 1) Trafficking in Drugs Within the Vicinity of a Juvenile, a first degree felony, in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2)/(C)(4)(F)(E); 2) Possession of Crack Cocaine, a first degree felony, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A)/(C)(4)(E); and 3) Operation While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drug Abuse, a first degree misdemeanor, pursuant to R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)/(b)(3). The trial court also found him guilty on a count of Display of License Plates and Validation Stickers, a minor misdemeanor pursuant to R.C. 4503.21. Appellant was sentenced to a total of four (4) years in prison and fines of $325.00. For the following reasons, we affirm appellant's convictions.

{¶ 2} Appellant sets forth one assignment of error:

THE VERDICT WAS AGAINST THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE AS WELL AS AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE.

I.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

{¶ 3} On December 23, 2011, Lee Barrow traveled to Columbus, Ohio in order to acquire drugs. Barrow was traveling with juvenile Gregory Henderson. According to Barrow, the two were stranded in Columbus after their ride left them. Barrow called his longtime friend, appellant, Malcolm Griffin. Appellant agreed to give him a ride back to their hometown of Williamson, West Virginia. Appellant planned on going to Charleston, West Virginia first to pick up his mom and little sister, before continuing to Williamson.

{¶ 4} While the three were loading the car, Barrow carried out a new black jacket. They left after 11:00 p.m.; and Griffin stopped to put some gas in the car. During this stop, Barrow testified that he placed about an ounce of crack cocaine, contained in a plastic bag, inside a can of hair gel. He then placed that container inside a pocket of the black jacket. After the stop, appellant drove south on U.S. 23.

{¶ 5} In the early morning hours of December 24, 2013, Ohio State Highway Trooper Ted Neal and Sargent Jeremy Schuldt were working the midnight shift on U.S. 23 near Lucasville, Ohio. At 2:25 a.m. Trooper Neal noticed a vehicle driving south on U.S. 23 without a front license plate. In addition, the rear license tag light of the vehicle was not functioning. Sargent Schuldt was driving the police cruiser and began to follow the vehicle. When the vehicle pulled in a closed business, the officers activated the overhead lights and pulled over the vehicle. Trooper Neal approached the vehicle to obtain basic information. The driver of the vehicle was appellant Malcolm Griffin. Trooper Neal then went back to his vehicle.

{¶ 6} On his second approach to the vehicle, Trooper Neal smelled alcohol on Griffin. After having obtained appellant's basic information, Trooper Neal knew that appellant was only twenty years old. Trooper Neal asked appellant to step out of the vehicle. Next, Trooper Neal performed the HGN test, evaluating appellant's eyes. Trooper Neal observed four of the six indicators. Appellant then took a preliminary breath test which confirmed Trooper Neal's suspicions. At this time, appellant was placed under arrest for suspicion of OVI.

{¶ 7} Meanwhile, Sargent Schuldt monitored the passengers in the vehicle. Gregory Henderson occupied the front passenger seat; Lee Barrow sat in the backseat. Sargent Schuldt described Barrow as "basically pretending as though he was still asleep." Sargent Schuldt began talking to Henderson and noticed marijuana residue in the creases of his shirt and pants. Sargent Schuldt asked Henderson to step out of the car, and while he did Sargent Schuldt noticed Henderson make a flipping motion with his hand towards the back of the vehicle. A second glance inside the car revealed a bag of marijuana in the middle of the car's floor.

{¶ 8} The discovery of marijuana, prompted the officers to perform a complete search of the vehicle. A new black jacket, with the tags still on it, caught the attention of Sargent Schuldt. In response to an inquiry regarding ownership of the jacket, appellant said it belonged to him. A search of the jacket yielded the hair gel container which contained the 23.86 grams of cocaine-based crack. Appellant was taken to the patrol post, where he recorded a .044 BAC after taking a breath test. He was then taken to the Scioto County Jail.

{¶ 9} Appellant was indicted on five counts:

Count One: Trafficking in Drugs Within the Vicinity of a Juvenile, a first degree felony, in violation of R.C. 29.25.03(A)(2)
Count Two: Possession of Crack Cocaine, a first degree felony, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A)
Count Three: Operation While Under the Influence of Alcohol, a first degree misdemeanor, in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)
Count Four: Possession of Marijuana, a minor misdemeanor, in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A)
Count Five: Display of License Plates, a minor misdemeanor, in violation of R.C. 4503.21.

{ΒΆ 10} At trial, the State presented five witnesses in their case in chief: Trooper Ted Neal, Heather Sheskey, Captain David Hall, Sargent Jeremy Schuldt and Detective Joshua Justice. Appellant presented Lee Barrow and himself as witnesses in his own defense. The State introduced phone calls made by appellant and ...


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