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State v. Shannon

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Muskingum

January 5, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
LISA C. SHANNON Defendant-Appellant

         Criminal appeal from the Muskingum County Court, Case No. 1500221

         Affirmed in part; reversed in part and remanded.

          For Plaintiff-Appellant GERALD ANDERSON II Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.

          For Defendant-Appellee MILES FRIES.

          Hon. Sheila G. Farmer, P.J. Hon. W. Scott Gwin, J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J. Judge.

          OPINION

          Gwin, J.

         {¶1} Appellant Lisa C. Shannon ["Shannon"] appeals her convictions for Child Endangering and Obstructing Official Business after a bench trial in the Muskingum County Court.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} Shannon has been a licensed foster parent and a teacher for a number of years in Muskingum County. "Jane Doe, " a minor child was placed in Shannon's care in March 2015, residing in the home with Shannon's two children, "Eve Doe" and "Adam Doe."

         {¶3} In the summer 2014, Shannon asked Candy Emmert, a Muskingum County Children Services ("MCCS") adoption supervisor, if her boyfriend, W. L. would qualify to be a household member. At that time, Emmert did a background check and due in part to W.L.'s criminal conviction for a felony of the fourth degree in December of 2002, Emmert informed Shannon that he would not qualify to become a member of her household until June of 2017. (T. at 80-83). The background check did not reveal any domestic violence convictions for W.L. nor any convictions for child abuse or child endangering. (T. at 97). W.L. has not been accused, or convicted of any offenses involving physical violence. The felony conviction was not an absolute bar to placement of children in Shannon's home. (T. at 98). Nor was the conviction one that would prohibit W.L. from staying in the home several nights a week. (T. at 84-85). In fact, MCCS have placed children in the homes of individuals who have been convicted of felonies in the past. (T. at 99-100).

         {¶4} Shannon knew that she would not be able to continue as a foster parent if W.L lived in the home or if she were to marry him. (T. at 83). Shannon married W. L in October 2014.

         {¶5} On March 13, 2015, Shannon contacted Emmert to inform her of bruising that she had found on Jane Doe's buttocks. Shannon indicated that she noticed the bruising in the morning when she got her up to change the child. Shannon was not sure how the child got the mark on her bottom. Shannon could only recall that the child had fallen off the couch and onto some "Mega Blocks." After reporting this, Shannon called the doctor's office to schedule a time to bring the child in to be examined.

         {¶6} Dr. Gerald Tiberio examined Jane Doe on March 16, 2015. (T. at 118). He was provided with an explanation that the child had fallen off a couch onto some Mega Blocks. (T. at 118). Dr. Tiberio noted that the bruising had square angles, which was consistent with blocks causing the bruising; however, due to the intensity of the bruising he felt concerned and sent the child the Advocacy Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

         {¶7} Dr. Meagan Letson examined Jane Doe on March 17, 2015. (T. at 41; 44). Dr. Letson ran blood tests to rule out any bleeding disorders that would predispose the child to bruising easily. Dr. Letson testified that the bruising was very extensive and on two separate areas of the body which normally do not see accidental bruising or injury. While Dr. Letson admitted that Jane Doe's injuries could be accidental, she stated the location is rare and she testified to a medical degree of certainty that physical abuse caused the bruising on Jane Doe.

         {¶8} Krista Decker, a preschool teacher at Zanesville City Schools testified she worked with Shannon at Zane Grey Elementary for about eight years. On March 25, 2015, Shannon told her that there was an investigation concerning the child that had been placed with her. Shannon told Decker that Jane Doe had rolled off the couch and onto a block and that there were some markings on her. Shannon said nothing about a detective coming to talk to her nor did she ask her to say to the police that Jane Doe had been at the school.

         {¶9} Rebecca Bracken, another preschool teacher at Zane Grey Elementary testified she worked with Shannon and had known her for several months. Shannon told her of the investigation. Bracken recalled Shannon telling her that one of the foster children had fallen off the couch, had an emblem of blocks on her and that the child had been taken to Columbus to check everything out and make sure everything was okay. Bracken did not remember the entirety of the conversation. Bracken did remember Shannon saying that if a detective were to come to school would she let them know that Shannon had the child with her on that Monday of the week being investigated. Bracken did not tell the detective that Shannon had Jane Doe with her at school on the day in question.

         {¶10} Detective Brad Shawger testified that Muskingum County Children Services referred the matter to him. His investigation included interviews with Shannon, W. L., Shannon's children, Children Services' workers at both Muskingum and Coshocton counties, and the two teachers at Zane Grey Elementary. He went to Shannon's home and took photographs of the Mega Blocks that Shannon said had caused the injuries.

         {¶11} During her interview, Shannon initially stated that W. L. was her boyfriend but during the course of the interview admitted that they had been married in October 2014. She explained that he does not reside with her full time but does stay there between one to four days per week. Shannon first told Shawger W.L. had never watched the child by himself. Shannon initially said that Jane Doe had been at school with her during the week of the incident. However, she eventually admitted that had not been the case. Shannon admitted that she had not taken Jane Doe to school and that W. L. had watched her on Monday, Tuesday, part of Wednesday, part of Thursday, and part of Friday. She also acknowledged that she had not disclosed to Children Services that she had been married to W.L.

         {¶12} A complaint was filed against Shannon alleging that she committed Child Endangering, one count in violation of R.C. 2919.22(A) and another count in violation of R.C. 2919.22(B)(1), misdemeanors of the first degree, two counts of Falsification, in violation of R.C. 2921.13(A)(3), misdemeanors of the first degree and one count of Obstructing Official Business, in violation of R.C. 2921.31(A), a misdemeanor of the second degree.

         {¶13} Shannon waived her right to a jury trial. The state dismissed the one count of Child Endangering in violation of R.C. 2919.22(B)(1) that dealt specifically with child abuse during the course of the bench trial. (T. at 113).

         {¶14} On March 16, 2016, the Court found Shannon guilty on the remaining count of Child Endangering and on the count of Obstructing Official Business; Shannon was found not guilty of both counts of Falsification.

         Assignments of Error

         {¶15} Shannon raises three assignments of error, {¶16} "I. THE CONVICTION FOR CHILD ENDANGERING WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE WHEN THE STATE FAILED TO PRODUCE EVIDENCE THAT THE APPELLANT CREATED A SUBSTANTIAL RISK TO THE HEALTH OR SAFETY OF A CHILD.

         {¶17} "II. THE CONVICTION FOR OBSTRUCTING OFFICIAL BUSINESS WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE BECAUSE THE STATE FAILED TO PRODUCE EVIDENCE THAT A PUBLIC OFFICIAL WAS HAMPERED OR IMPEDED IN THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL DUTIES.

         {¶18} "III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN PERMITTING THE STATE'S EXPERT WITNESS TO TESTIFY TO AN OPINION THAT HAD NOT BEEN DISCLOSED PRIOR TO TRIAL."

         I.

         {¶19} In her first assignment of error, Shannon challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. Shannon further contends her conviction for endangering children is against the manifest weight of the evidence produced at trial.

         {¶20} Our review of the constitutional sufficiency of evidence to support a criminal conviction is governed by Jackson v. Virginia,443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), which requires a court of appeals to determine whether "after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Id.; see also McDaniel v. Brown,558 U.S. 120, 130 S.Ct. 665, 673, 175 L.Ed.2d 582(2010) (reaffirming this standard); State v. Fry,125 ...


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