Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Jefferson
Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County,
Ohio Case No. 15 CR 8
Plaintiff-Appellee Attorney Jane Hanlin Jefferson County
Prosecutor 16001 State Route 7 Steubenville, Ohio 43952
Defendant-Appellant Attorney Timothy Young Ohio Public
Defender Attorney Allen Vender Assistant Public Defender 250
East Broad Street, Suite 1400 Columbus, Ohio 43215
JUDGES: Hon. Mary DeGenaro Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Carol
Defendant-Appellant, Jeffery Spring, appeals the trial court
judgment convicting him of murder, a firearm specification,
tampering with evidence, and sentencing him accordingly.
Spring asserts trial counsel was constitutionally
ineffective. As Spring's assignment of error is
meritless, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
and Procedural History
Spring called 911 to report that he had killed Stephen Boyer;
he had sustained two gunshot wounds and his body was found
outside of Spring's home. Spring was indicted on one
count of murder, R.C. 2903.02(A), an unclassified felony,
with an attached firearm specification, R.C. 2941.145; and
one count of tampering with evidence, R.C. 2921.12(A)(1).
Spring made numerous inconsistent statements to police about
the circumstances surrounding Boyer's death, regarding
which defense counsel did not file a motion to suppress.
The following facts were adduced during Spring's jury
trial. Both Spring and the victim had been drinking alcohol
on the day Boyer was killed; Spring estimated that he had
consumed fifteen beers and Boyer's blood alcohol content
upon his autopsy was .292. On the 911 call, Spring claimed
Boyer was trying to break into his home while brandishing a
knife and seemed to indicate that there was more than one
person in his home when this attempted break-in occurred.
When police arrived, they found Spring was the only one in
the home. There was no sign of forced entry at his residence
and no sign of a struggle inside of his home. Police located
the victim's jacket and the victim's cell phone in
Spring's living room.
They found Boyer dead, having sustained gunshot wounds to the
head and chest. His body was lying in front of Spring's
front door; however, there was a bloodstain several feet
away-not near the front door-that appeared to have been swept
up with a broom. A bloodstained push-broom was also found
Officers placed Spring in the back seat of a cruiser and
questioned him. After being provided with Miranda
warnings, Spring stated: "I shot him once, went outside
and shot him again in the head to make sure he was
Officers observed the victim had a knife in his hand, but
they also noticed that the placement of the knife seemed odd
given the condition of the body and the gunshot wound
suffered by the victim. The knife was recovered and sent to
the BCI crime lab for processing. The only DNA recovered from
the handle and the blade of the knife belonged to Spring;
there was no DNA from the victim on that knife.
Officers attempted to find the firearm used in the crime, a
Smith and Wesson .38 revolver, and Spring made various claims
as to where the weapon might be, first claiming it was in his
bedroom, and later stating that it might have been in the
couch. Officers later located the weapon during a search of
the residence, inside of a concealed cabinet in the kitchen.
The gun contained two spent shell casings and four live
An autopsy of the victim's body resulted in a bullet
being recovered from the victim's abdomen. That bullet
was a .38 caliber bullet and additional testing by the crime
lab resulted in the conclusion that the bullet found inside
Boyer's body was fired from the .38 Smith and Wesson
revolver found in Spring's kitchen.
Approximately ten hours after he made the 911 call, Spring
was interviewed by Sheriff Fred Abdalla while in
sheriff's department custody; this interview was
videotaped. Before questioning Spring, Abdalla provided him
the Miranda warnings, and Spring indicated he
understood his rights and wished to waive them.
Spring admitted to the sheriff that he first shot the victim
in the abdomen and then shot him again in the head. He
explained he inflicted the second shot because he did not
want to see the victim suffer. This statement by Spring
matched the conclusions of the medical examiner, who
indicated that the victim was alive when the shot to the head
was fired. Spring also admitted he attempted to clean up the
blood outside with a broom, and that he placed the knife in
the victim's hand after he shot him.
Spring elected to testify in his own defense at trial,
claiming that he shot the victim accidentally through his
closed front door. Spring testified that he believed the
victim had left the premises, and therefore did not think he
would hit anyone when he fired his weapon through the door.
Spring claimed that prior to the shooting there were only
seven bullet holes in the front door, an assertion supported
by the testimony of his son. After the shooting,
investigators found there were nine bullet holes in the front
Spring admitted he lied when he reported the victim broke
into his house and had a knife. Spring said he and the victim
had been together at his home for approximately 30 to 40
minutes, when the two began to argue. At some point, he
became agitated after observing his prescription medication
bottles were moved; he suspected the victim had attempted to
steal from him. He then pushed the victim out of his house.
Subsequently, he shot two times through the closed front
Spring said he discovered the victim's dead body outside
when his dogs began to bark. Spring conceded he took the
broom and was trying to sweep away the blood stains and that
he also "got some disinfectant and sprayed it
around" that area. Only after his attempt at cleaning
up, did Spring call 911. As for the knife, Spring said he
"subconsciously" planted it in the victim's
hand. When asked by defense counsel whether he lied about the
knife because he was afraid, Spring remarked: "I
wasn't. I wasn't afraid."
Upon cross-examination, Spring could not explain how the
bullets would have taken a 90 degree turn once going through
the door, to hit the victim where the bloodstain was found
outside. Spring asserted that three separate law enforcement
officers must have misheard him when they reported he said he
shot Boyer once and then went out and shot him again in the
head to make sure that he was dead. Spring was unable to
explain his recorded statement to the sheriff, wherein he
admitted that he shot the victim in the head because he
"didn't want to see him suffer."
Spring was found guilty by a jury on all counts and was
sentenced to an aggregate prison term of 18-years to life.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
In his sole assignment of error, Spring asserts:
Jeffrey Spring received ineffective assistance of counsel
because his attorney failed to file a motion to suppress his
statements to the police, when he did not knowingly,
intelligently, and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights;
failed to object to prosecutorial misconduct in closing
argument; and failed to object to witness opinion which was
not based on firsthand knowledge or expertise.
To prove ineffective assistance of counsel, the defendant
must satisfy a two-prong test; that counsel's performance
has fallen below an objective standard of reasonable
representation, and that he was prejudiced by counsel's
performance. Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668,
687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); State v.
Bradley,42 Ohio St.3d 136, 538 N.E.2d 373 (1989), at
paragraph two of the syllabus. To demonstrate prejudice, the
defendant must prove that, but for counsel's errors, the
result of the trial would have been different. Id.,
paragraph three of the syllabus. In Ohio, a properly ...