Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Ronald A. Skingle
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor By: Denise J. Salerno Assistant County
BEFORE: McCormack, J., E.A. Gallagher, P.J., and Celebrezze,
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
Defendant-appellant Tommy Buchanan appeals from a judgment of
the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas that convicted him
of rape following a jury trial. Buchanan was accused of
forcing a 14-year-old girl, L.F., into his vehicle while she
was on her way to school, driving her several blocks to a
parking lot, and raping her. The incident occurred in 1994
but the crime remained unsolved until 2013, when
Buchanan's DNA was matched to the rape kit collected from
the 14-year-old on the day of the incident. After a careful
review of the record and applicable law, we affirm
Facts and Procedural History
After the DNA match, on August 14, 2014, Buchanan was
indicted of rape and kidnapping, both counts accompanied with
a three-year firearm specification. At the time of his
indictment, he was serving a lengthy prison term for a prior
rape conviction. Because of his mental health conditions, a
trial initially scheduled for May 4, 2015, was cancelled and
he was referred to the Court Psychiatric Clinic for a
competency and sanity evaluation. After Buchanan was
evaluated, a trial was subsequently scheduled nearly one year
later for May 2, 2016.
On the very day of his trial, Buchanan's counsel informed
the court for the first time that Buchanan wanted to proceed
pro se. After a thorough, extensive colloquy with Buchanan,
the trial court denied his request for self-representation.
Before the trial, the state moved to amend the date of the
offense from August 22, 1994, to December 23, 1994. The state
explained that the rape kit was collected on the day of the
incident, December 23, 1994, but the indictment inadvertently
listed August 22, 1994, as the date of the offense. The court
granted the amendment on the ground that the defendant was
claiming consensual sex instead of asserting an alibi
defense. The defense objected to the amendment but did not
ask for a continuance of trial.
The testimony by the state's witnesses, including L.F.
herself, reflects that in the early morning of December 23,
1994, L.F. took an RTA bus to enable her to then catch her
school bus. After she got off the RTA bus, as she was walking
to the school bus stop, a car drove by and then turned
around. The driver forced her inside the car. The driver,
whom she had never seen before, locked the car door and told
her he had a gun. He drove several blocks and parked the car
in the back of a parking lot of an apartment building on
Kenmore Avenue. He then punched her in the face and forced
her to engage in intercourse with him. After he finished the
assault, he told her to get out of the car and drove off.
L.F. walked across the parking lot and saw a woman who
appeared to be leaving for work. L.F. approached her and
asked for help. The woman, Vanessa Hurt, also testified at
Hurt corroborated L.F.'s testimony. On that morning, as
she was leaving for work, a young girl, who was crying and
appeared upset, told her she had been raped by a man who took
her from a bus stop. Hurt brought L.F. inside her apartment
and called the police. An ambulance took L.F. to the
hospital. The nurse who treated her at the hospital testified
at trial as well. She recalled that L.F.'s mother and a
school board member came to the hospital and a rape kit was
The police however were unable to identify the man until
2013, when a test of the rape kit linked Buchanan to the
incident. When presented with a photo array 20 years later,
L.F. was only able to identify Buchanan with a 50% certainty.
Buchanan testified on his own behalf. His testimony was
rambling and disjointed. Initially when interviewed by the
police, he denied knowing L.F. He testified that he knew L.F.
around December 1994. He implied L.F. was a prostitute at the
time; he first met her when she was "walking back and
forth on the sidewalk like she was flagging down cars."
She told him she was 20. He testified that he had sex with
her on four occasions. On the day she accused him of raping
her, they had sex behind a dumpster in a parking lot on
Kenmore Avenue. He asserted that she went to the police
afterward because on that day she told him she was pregnant
by him and he denied being the father.
The jury found Buchanan guilty of rape, but not guilty of
kidnapping or the firearm specification. The trial court
sentenced him to 11 years in prison, to be served
consecutively to the prison term he was serving for his prior
conviction of a sex offense.
On appeal, Buchanan raises two assignments of error for our
review. They state:
1. The trial court violated appellant, Tommy Buchanan's
constitutional right to self representation by denying him
the ability to defend himself at trial without the assistance
2. The trial court erred by granting the state's motion
to amend the date of the offense in the indictment of the
date of trial.
Under the first assignment of error, Buchanan claims the
trial court violated his constitutional right of
self-representation. We review this claim for an abuse of
discretion. State v. ...