APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR 1112 3491
MARK H. LUDWIG, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and HEAVEN DIMARTINO, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
(¶1} Christopher Meadows appeals his murder and felonious assault convictions from the Summit County common pleas court. For the following reasons, this Court affirms.
(¶2} On the evening of December 14, 2011, Mr. Meadows, Tramein Walker, Ashley Walker, and two others gathered in the kitchen of Ms. Walker's parent's house on Roselle Avenue in Akron Ohio. According to Ms. Walker, all of the people present were friends or family and they had all known each other for a long time. Everyone sat around the table talking and acting normally.
(¶3} Ms. Walker testified that as it got later, she decided to return to her house, which was across the street. About 15 minutes after she returned home, she was upstairs when she heard yelling coming from outside. She looked out the window briefly and saw Mr. Meadows and Mr. Walker standing facing each other and arguing. At some point thereafter she heard a gunshot, so she ran downstairs. Before she reached the bottom of the stairs, she heard a second gunshot. When she got outside, she saw Mr. Walker lying in the grass and Mr. Meadows running away. Her parents, who had been on the lower level of her house, called 911, but Mr. Walker ended up dying from gunshot wounds to his back and leg.
(¶4}Mr. Meadows testified that, when he left the house around 10:00 p.m., Mr. Walker followed him. Once they got outside, Mr. Walker told Mr. Meadows that he was angry with him. According to Mr. Meadows, he, his older brother Curtis, and Mr. Walker had been good friends. A couple of months earlier, however, someone had killed his brother. Mr. Meadows said that Mr. Walker was angry at him because Mr. Walker thought that he had been socializing with the men who Mr. Walker thought were responsible for his brother's death. According to Mr. Meadows, he has never been friends with those men. Moreover, he maintained, no one knows who killed his brother.
(¶5} Mr. Meadows testified that, when he denied Mr. Walker's allegation, Mr. Walker insisted that it was true. When he denied the allegation again, Mr. Walker grabbed his shirt and punched him in the face. They began "tussling." After a while, they fell to the ground, which is when Mr. Meadows believes Mr. Walker realized that he had a gun in his pants. According to Mr. Meadows, Mr. Walker was behind him and tried to take the gun from his waistband, but he resisted. They began struggling for the gun and that is when it went off After the gun went off, Mr. Walker felt his back, then started choking Mr. Meadows while continuing to struggle for the gun. When the gun went off again, Mr. Walker stopped moving. Mr. Meadows testified that he got up, grabbed the gun, and ran. An autopsy revealed that Mr. Walker died from exsanguination caused by the gunshot wound to his back.
(¶6} The Grand Jury indicted Mr. Meadows for felonious assault and murder. At trial, the court refused to give any lesser-included offense instructions or a self-defense instruction, but it did instruct the jury on accident. The jury found Mr. Meadows guilty of the offenses, and the trial court sentenced him to 15 years to life imprisonment. Mr. Meadows has appealed, assigning four errors.
ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR I
APPELLANT WAS DENIED DUE PROCESS AND SUBSTANTIALLY PREJUDICED BY JURY INSTRUCTIONS WHICH WERE INCOMPLETE DUE TO DENIALS OF TIMELY DEFENSE REQUESTS FOR JURY CHARGES OF SELF-DEFENSE AND LESSER OR INFERIOR OFFENSES.
(¶7} Mr. Meadows argues that the trial court should have given a self-defense instruction as well as instructions on the lesser-included or inferior-degree offenses of voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless homicide, and negligent homicide. "This Court reviews a trial court's decision to give or decline to give a particular jury instruction for an abuse of discretion under the facts and circumstances of the case." State v. Sanders, 9th Dist. Summit No. 24654, 2009-Ohio-5537, ¶ 45. "An abuse of discretion is more than an error of judgment; it means that the trial court was unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable in its ruling." Id., citing Blakemore v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219 (1983).
(¶8} In deciding whether to instruct the jury on a lesser-included or inferior-degree offense, the trial court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the defendant. State v. Trimble, 122 Ohio St.3d 297, 2009-Ohio-2961, ¶ 192, quoting State v. Thomas, 40 Ohio St.3d 213 (1988), paragraph two of the syllabus. Id. "[A] lesser-included-offense instruction is not warranted every time 'some evidence' is presented to support the lesser offense." Id. "Rather, a court must find 'sufficient evidence' to 'allow a jury to reasonably reject the greater offense and find the defendant guilty on a lesser included (or inferior degree) offense.'" Id. (Emphasis deleted.), quoting State v. Shane, 63 Ohio St.3d 630, 632-633 (1992)).
(¶9} The Grand Jury indicted Mr. Meadows for purposeful murder under Revised Code Section 2903.02(A) and felony murder under Section 2903.02(B). Regarding voluntary manslaughter, the Ohio Supreme Court has recognized that it is an inferior-degree offense to a charge of purposeful murder. Shane at 632. Under Section 2903.03(A), "[n]o person, while under the influence of sudden passion or in a sudden fit of rage, either of which is brought on by serious provocation occasioned by the victim that is reasonably sufficient to incite the person into using deadly force, shall knowingly cause the death of another * * *." The trial court refused to give a voluntary manslaughter ...