from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No.
brief: Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Seth L.
Gilbert, for appellee. Argued: Seth L. Gilbert.
brief: Barnhart Law Office, LLC, and Robert B. Barnhart, for
appellant. Argued: Robert B. Barnhart.
1} Defendant-appellant, John R. Murray, Jr., appeals
from a judgment entry of the Franklin County Court of Common
Pleas finding him guilty of three counts of aggravated
trafficking in drugs and one count of aggravated possession
of drugs. For the following reasons, we affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
2} By indictment filed November 14, 2014,
plaintiff-appellee, State of Ohio, charged Murray with four
counts of aggravated trafficking of oxycodone in violation of
R.C. 2925.03. Counts 1, 2, and 3 alleged violations under
R.C. 2925.03(A)(1), selling or offering to sell the
controlled substance, and the amount of oxycodone involved
equaled or exceeded 5 times the bulk amount but was less than
50 times the bulk amount. Count 4 alleged a violation under
R.C. 2925.03(A)(2), preparing for shipment, and that the
amount involved equaled or exceeded the bulk amount but was
less than 5 times the bulk amount. Additionally, Counts 2, 3,
and 4 contained a specification, pursuant to R.C. 2925.01,
that the offenses were committed in the vicinity of a
juvenile. Murray entered a plea of not guilty.
3} At a jury trial commencing October 26, 2015, the
state presented evidence that Murray participated in three
controlled buys of narcotics with C.B., a confidential
informant working with law enforcement after police caught
C.B.'s wife purchasing drugs for C.B. C.B. agreed to work
as a confidential informant in exchange for law enforcement
not pursuing criminal charges against his wife. C.B.
testified that prior to the time he began working as a
confidential informant, he had purchased drugs multiple times
through a man named Bobby Guy who would obtain the drugs from
Murray's house, though C.B. did not know Murray
personally prior to his work as a confidential informant.
4} The three controlled buys correlate to Counts 1
through 3 of the indictment. C.B. testified that Guy served
as a "middleman" between C.B. and Murray to arrange
the first two buys. (Tr. at 300.) The first buy, correlating
to Count 1 of the indictment, occurred on January 17, 2014.
C.B. called Guy to arrange for a buy of oxycodone and Guy
then arranged for Murray to sell the pills to C.B. Guy took
C.B. to Murray's sister's house to complete the
transaction, but C.B. testified that Murray was not present
because he had to go to the hospital. However, Murray
arranged for his son to deliver the pills to C.B., so the
individuals present at the first controlled buy were C.B.,
Guy, Murray's son, and another individual named Carl
Osgood, whom C.B. knew to be Guy's supplier. C.B. bought
98 pills of 30-milligram oxycodone during this transaction.
5} The second buy, correlating to Count 2 of the
indictment, occurred on February 7, 2014. Once again, Guy
acted as the middleman arranging the buy and this time the
transaction occurred at Murray's home. C.B. testified
Murray was present for the second buy and that Murray entered
his bedroom and returned with the pills. During this
transaction, C.B. bought 83 pills of 30-milligram oxycodone.
C.B. testified that a young child came into the kitchen to
ask for a glass of water while C.B. was in Murray's home
to purchase the pills.
6} The third buy, correlating to Count 3 of the
indictment, occurred on March 7, 2014. Guy was not involved
in the third buy; instead, Murray called C.B. directly to
arrange the buy while C.B. was working with police on an
investigation into another individual, and law enforcement
decided to pursue the opportunity for another controlled buy.
When C.B. went to Murray's home, C.B. said there were
"teenage kids in the kitchen, " so he and Murray
went into the bedroom to complete the transaction. (Tr. at
443.) C.B. said Murray retrieved the pills from a dresser in
the bedroom. During this transaction, C.B. bought 100 pills
of 30-milligram oxycodone.
7} Additionally, law enforcement attempted to
arrange a fourth buy with Murray but that transaction never
occurred despite C.B. "fronting" Murray $100 for
the pills. (Tr. at 188.) C.B. lied to police about giving
money to Murray resulting in the Hilliard Police Department
deactivating C.B. as a confidential informant for violating
the terms of his agreement.
8} Count 4 of the indictment relates to the
execution of a search warrant on Murray's home. During
the search of Murray's home, police discovered three
firearms and a pill bottle in Murray's dresser. The pill
bottle contained 114 pills of 5-milligram oxycodone.
9} C.B. provided extensive testimony regarding each
of the controlled buys. During his testimony, the state
introduced several audio recordings, including audio
recordings of the telephone conversations between C.B. and
Guy arranging the first two buys and audio recordings of the
actual controlled buys obtained from the wire C.B. wore
during the transactions. The trial court admitted these
recordings over defense counsel's objections.
10} Several witnesses testified in Murray's
defense. Stacie Murray, a home healthcare worker and
Murray's ex-wife, testified that Murray became distraught
after the death of his mother and began drinking heavily and
acting irrationally. She also testified that the pills police
found in Murray's home belonged to one of her patients
and that she kept the pills in her possession at the
11} Murray's sister, Vicki Murray, testified she
took Murray to the hospital on January 17, 2014 for a mental
health evaluation because Murray had been drinking so heavily
and was so distraught after their mother's death that
Vicki worried he may hurt himself.
12} Finally, Darla Dalton, Murray's
fiancée, testified that Murray was "very
sad" and "irrational" in January 2014
following his mother's death. (Tr. at 1084.) Eventually,
the state objected to the line of questioning regarding
Murray's state of mind after defense counsel asked if
Murray was "mentally challenged" during the time in
question. (Tr. at 1096.) The state argued defense counsel was
attempting to present an insanity defense through lay
testimony, and defense counsel responded that the questioning
related to the element of "knowingly." (Tr. at
1097-1104.) The trial court ultimately sustained the
objection, noting none of Murray's character witnesses
was present during any of the transactions and that even if
they were, their lay testimony about his mental state
nonetheless created "an issue." (Tr. at 1104.)
13} At the agreement of the state, the trial court
granted Murray's Crim.R. 29 motion for acquittal as it
related to the juvenile specification in Count 4 of the
indictment. The trial court denied the Crim.R. 29 motion with
respect to all other charges.
14} Following deliberations, the jury returned
guilty verdicts on Counts 1, 2, and 3, as well as a guilty
verdict on the lesser-included offense of aggravated
possession of drugs on Count 4. At the conclusion of a
December 10, 2015 sentencing hearing, the trial court
sentenced Murray to an aggregate term of imprisonment of
eight years and imposed a fine of $32, 500. The trial court
journalized Murray's convictions and sentence in a
December 18, 2015 judgment entry. Murray timely appeals.
Assignments of Error
15} Murray assigns the following ...