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State v. Edmonds

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

March 2, 2017


         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-15-596373-A

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Rick L. Ferrara

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor By: John Colan Patrick J. Lavelle Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys

          BEFORE: Keough, A.J., E.A. Gallagher, J., and McCormack, J.



         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Mario L. Edmonds ("Edmonds"), appeals from the trial court's judgment finding him guilty of involuntary manslaughter, corrupting another with drugs, drug trafficking, drug possession, and possessing criminal tools, and sentencing him to nine years incarceration. Finding no merit to the appeal, we affirm.

         I. Procedural History and Facts

         {¶2} Edmonds was indicted in a multicount indictment on one count of involuntary manslaughter in violation of R.C. 2903.04(A); one count of corrupting another with drugs in violation of R.C. 2925.02(A)(3); two counts of drug trafficking in violation of R.C. 2925.03(A)(2); two counts of drug possession in violation of R.C. 2925.11(A); and one count of possessing criminal tools in violation of R.C. 2923.24(A). All counts except for the involuntary manslaughter count carried forfeiture specifications. Edmonds pleaded not guilty, and the matter proceeded to a bench trial at which the following evidence was adduced.

         {¶3} On May 31, 2015, at approximately 1 p.m., police and paramedics responded to an apartment at 3495 East 98th Street in Cleveland in response to a 911 call of a possible overdose. The victim's former girlfriend, Marshanette Johnson ("Johnson"), called 911 when she found William Cohen ("Cohen") lying unresponsive on the floor of her apartment with a needle in his hand.

         {¶4} Johnson testified that she and Cohen had been in a relationship for 38 years, although they were not together in May 2015. Johnson, a former drug addict, said that Cohen had been a heroin addict for over 30 years, and that he used heroin every day. She testified that Cohen arrived at her apartment sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on May 31, 2015, and that he was not high when he arrived. She said that they talked briefly and then left the apartment for approximately 10 or 15 minutes. Johnson said that after they went back to the apartment, she went to the bathroom, and when she came out five minutes later, she saw Cohen lying on the kitchen floor.

         {¶5} Cleveland police officer Ryan McMahon testified that when he and his partner responded to the scene, they observed drug paraphernalia and a cell phone on the kitchen table. Johnson told the officers that no one other than Cohen had been in the apartment that day, and that she did not know where Cohen got the drugs he overdosed on, but that he must have had them on him when he arrived at her apartment.

         {¶6} Cleveland police detective John Cline testified that he collected evidence from Johnson's apartment, including Cohen's cell phone and two tear-offs.[1] The tear-offs were later submitted to the Cuyahoga County forensic science laboratory for analysis but an insufficient quantity of DNA was detected on the items to allow testing. A bottle cap found on Johnson's kitchen table subsequently tested positive for heroin and fentanyl residue.[2]

         {¶7} Cuyahoga County Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Erica Armstrong testified that the results of an autopsy performed on Cohen demonstrated that he used drugs within 24 hours of his death and died accidentally from acute intoxication caused by the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine. She testified further that the autopsy showed that Cohen had died within several minutes of injecting the fentanyl, and that the level of fentanyl in his system was lethal.

         {¶8} Cleveland police detective Scott Moran ("Moran") also responded to the scene. He testified that because Cohen had no other drugs on his person and there were no other drugs in the apartment, it was apparent the drug paraphernalia recovered from Johnson's apartment was related to the drugs Cohen used in his fatal overdose.

         {¶9} Upon looking at Cohen's cell phone, Det. Moran saw that the last text message Cohen received the day he died was at 11:43 a.m. from telephone number (216) 804-****. A Facebook search matched the number to Edmonds's Facebook page and picture.

         {¶10} After obtaining a search warrant, the police extracted data regarding incoming and outgoing calls and text messages from Cohen's phone. Det. Moran testified that state's exhibit No. 35, the extraction report, demonstrated the following. On May 18, 2015, Cohen received a text from Edmonds's number stating, "U holding me up big bra what's up." On May 28, 2015, Cohen received a text from a number later identified as belonging to Edmonds's mother that said, "My Mario 1216804****."[3] On May 31, 2015, the day he died, Cohen called that number at 11:04 a.m.; the call lasted only 35 seconds. At 11:35 a.m., Cohen called the number again; this time the call lasted 1 minute, 16 seconds. At 11:43 a.m., Cohen received a text from that number that stated "97 Denison." Cohen called the number after receiving the text; the call lasted 30 seconds. At 12:08 p.m., Cohen called the number again; the call lasted 34 seconds.

         {¶11} Det. Moran testified that he had 11 years' experience in the police department narcotics unit and, as a result of his undercover work, was knowledgeable about how drug dealers and users in Cuyahoga County operate and communicate. He said that the amount of calls, the short duration of the calls, and the text message with only a location that were found on Cohen's cell phone were all consistent with the manner in which drug deals are facilitated.

         {¶12} The police decided to pose as Cohen to see if they could get Edmonds, the suspected drug dealer, to meet them. At 11:20 a.m. on June 1, 2015, using Cohen's cell phone, Det. Moran sent a text to Edmonds's number asking "you around?" Three minutes later, Det. Moran received two telephone calls from that number. He decided not to answer the calls because he knew he would not sound like Cohen. Instead, at 11:23 a.m., Det. Moran sent a text message that said, "about to leave my girl's, can't talk right now, wanted to see you."

         {¶13} Only a minute later, at 11:24 a.m., Det. Moran received a text that said "St. Clair." At 11:26 a.m., Det. Moran responded, "OK, how long?" He immediately received a text reply stating, "come to me if you can." Det. Moran responded, "leaving in a minute. Where on St. Clair?" At 11:27 a.m., an incoming text to Cohen's cell phone stated, "66th." Det. Moran responded at 11:28 a.m. stating, "OK same thing as yesterday leaving ...

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