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State v. Bates

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District

August 19, 2013

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
MARC A. BATES Appellant

APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF MEDINA, OHIO CASE No. 11CR0575

DAVID V. GEDROCK, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

DEAN HOLMAN, Prosecuting Attorney, and MATTHEW A. KERN, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

MOORE, Presiding Judge.

(¶1} Defendant, Marc A. Bates, appeals from his conviction in the Medina County Court of Common Pleas. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand this matter for further proceedings.

I.

(¶2} On the morning of September 12, 2011, the Medina County home of William Harmath and his son, John Harmath, was burglarized. The intruder stole several jars of coins, William Harmath's wedding rings, and John Harmath's blue Ford Ranger pickup truck. Later that morning, the Harmath's neighbors, John Tesar and Constance Hammon, reported to police that someone had broken the lock to their barn and had taken bicycles and an oxygen tank. The bicycles and tank were recovered from a field across the street from the Harmaths' residence. Four days later, law enforcement responded to a call of a vehicle on fire in Wayne County a short distance from the Medina County line. The vehicle was badly burned, but appeared to be a pickup truck. On the same morning, a Wayne County resident, who lived less than a mile from where the truck was burned, reported to police that her red Dodge Ram pickup truck was missing from her barn. After consultation between officers in Wayne and Medina Counties, law enforcement determined that the burned truck was Mr. Harmath's stolen Ford Ranger.

(¶3} Officers suspected that Meghan Mora and Mr. Bates, who were friends of Ms. Hammon's son, were involved in these incidents. On September 16, 2011, police officers located Ms. Mora and Mr. Bates in the stolen Dodge Ram and placed them under arrest. In an interview following his arrest, Mr. Bates acknowledged having taken the two trucks.

(¶4} The Medina County Grand Jury indicted Mr. Bates on the following charges stemming from these incidents: burglary in violation of R.C. 2911.12(A)(1), with an attendant repeat violent offender specification, theft of a motor vehicle in violation of R.C. 2913.02(A)(1), breaking and entering in violation of R.C. 2911.13(A), breaking and entering in violation of R.C. 2911.13(B), and arson in violation of R.C. 2909.03(A)(1). Mr. Bates pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the case proceeded to jury trial on the charges and a bench trial on the repeat violent offender specification. The jury was instructed on complicity in regard to the burglary and arson charges. The jury found Mr. Bates guilty on all counts, and the trial court later determined that Mr. Bates was a repeat violent offender.

(¶5} In a sentencing entry issued on May 18, 2012, the trial court sentenced Mr. Bates to a total term of incarceration of twelve years. Mr. Bates timely appealed from the sentencing entry, and he now presents two assignments of error for our review.

II.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR I

THE EVIDENCE AT TRIAL WAS INSUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT THE JURY'S GUILTY VERDICTS AGAINST [MR. BATES] AS TO THE CHARGED BURGLARY AND ARSON OFFENSES, AND [HIS] CONVICTIONS FOR BURGLARY AND ARSON WERE EACH AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE.

(¶6} In his first assignment of error, Mr. Bates contends that his convictions for burglary and arson were based upon insufficient evidence and were against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Sufficiency of the Evidence

(¶7} The issue of whether a conviction is supported by sufficient evidence is a question of law, which we review de novo. State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386 (1997). When considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, the court must determine whether the prosecution has met its burden of production. Id. at 390 (Cook, J. concurring). In making this determination, an appellate court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution:

An appellate court's function when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The 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.

State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus.

(¶8} Mr. Bates has limited his sufficiency of the evidence challenge to his convictions for burglary and arson. We likewise will limit our discussion.

(¶9} The offense of burglary is defined in R.C. 2911.12(A), which provides in relevant part:

No person, by force, stealth, or deception, shall do any of the following:
(1) Trespass in an occupied structure or in a separately secured or separately occupied portion of an occupied structure, when another person other than an accomplice of the offender is present, with purpose to commit in the structure or in the separately secured or separately occupied portion of the structure any criminal offense[.]

(¶10} The offense of arson is defined in R.C. 2909.03(A), which provides in relevant part:

No person, by means of fire or explosion, shall knowingly do any of the following:
(1) Cause, or create a substantial risk of, physical harm to any property of another without the other person's consent[.]

(¶11} Here, the trial court instructed the jury on aiding and abetting pursuant to Ohio's complicity statute, which provides in relevant part that "[n]o person acting with the kind of culpability required for the commission of an offense, shall * * * [a]id or abet another in committing the offense[.]" R.C. 2923.03(A). In order to support a conviction based upon a defendant's complicity through "aiding and abetting:"

[T]he evidence must show that the defendant supported, assisted, encouraged, cooperated with, advised, or incited the principal in the commission of the crime, and that the defendant shared the criminal intent of the principal. Such intent ...

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