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State v. Lewis

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

May 10, 2017

JOHN LEWIS Appellant


          DAWN M. KING, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and HEAVEN DIMARTINO, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.


          THOMAS A. TEODOSIO, Judge.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant, John Lewis, appeals from his convictions in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.


         {¶2} Mr. Lewis and his former girlfriend, the victim in this matter, began dating in 2007 and lived together at various points in time. Mr. Lewis described their relationship in positive terms and indicated that the two were still communicating and working on their problems when the incident giving rise to this appeal occurred. Meanwhile, the victim testified that she had tried repeatedly to end their relationship, but Mr. Lewis persistently called her, showed up at her workplace, and came to her home. There is no dispute that, on the evening of August 2, 2014, Mr. Lewis came to the victim's house in his truck. By the end of the evening, the victim was suffering from a dislocated knee, a fractured tibia, and facial swelling while Mr. Lewis was suffering from a broken pinkie finger.

         {¶3} According to Mr. Lewis, he picked up the victim on August 2nd because they had plans to go to his house and watch a movie. He testified that, after they arrived at his home, the victim fell from his raised back porch and he fell attempting to catch her. Mr. Lewis acknowledged that the victim injured her leg during the fall, but claimed that she would not allow him to call an ambulance because of the cost. It was his testimony that they planned to go to the hospital after they relaxed in his basement, but that he was later forced to call 911 because he could not carry the victim upstairs.

         {¶4} According to the victim, she and Mr. Lewis did not have plans the evening of August 2nd, but he came to her house after repeatedly calling her and her roommate's cell phones. She testified that she went outside to speak with Mr. Lewis and got into his truck because he claimed that he needed help with something. She testified that she protested when Mr. Lewis drove away, but that he continued to drive until he brought her to his house. When she refused to exit his truck, he repeatedly punched her and dragged her from the vehicle. She testified that she injured her leg falling from his porch in an attempt to escape from him. Although she immediately experienced severe pain, Mr. Lewis took her cell phone, brought her into his basement, and refused to call for help. There is no dispute that Mr. Lewis did not call 911 until 5:01 a.m. the following morning.

         {¶5} A grand jury indicted Mr. Lewis on one count each of kidnapping, felonious assault, abduction, menacing by stalking, and domestic violence. The matter proceeded to trial, and a jury found Mr. Lewis guilty on all counts. The parties agreed that the offenses of kidnapping and abduction were allied offenses of similar import, as were the offenses of felonious assault and domestic violence. After the State elected to proceed on the counts of kidnapping and felonious assault, the trial court sentenced Mr. Lewis on those two counts and his menacing by stalking count. The court sentenced him to a total of 13 years in prison.

         {¶6} Mr. Lewis now appeals from his convictions and raises three assignments of error for our review. For ease of analysis, we rearrange several of the assignments of error.



         {¶7} In his first assignment of error, Mr. Lewis argues that the trial court erred when it allowed the State to exercise a peremptory challenge against Juror Number 10, an African American male. We disagree.

         {¶8} "The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits deliberate discrimination based on race by a prosecutor in his exercise of peremptory challenges." State v. Campbell 9th Dist. Summit No. 24668, 2010-Ohio-2573, ¶ 33, citing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 89 (1986). "'A court adjudicates a Batson claim in three steps.'" State v. Were, 118 Ohio St.3d 448, 2008-Ohio-2762, ¶ 61, quoting State v. Murphy, 91 Ohio St.3d 516, 528 (2001).

In the first step, a defendant must make a prima facie showing that the [S]tate has exercised a peremptory challenge on the basis of race. Once the prima facie showing has been made, the State must offer a basis for striking the prospective juror that is race-neutral. Finally, the trial court must consider the parties' positions to determine whether the defendant has demonstrated purposeful discrimination.

(Internal citations omitted.) State v. Jackson, 9th Dist. Summit No. 27739, 2017-Ohio-278, ¶ 6. "This Court reviews whether a party exercised its peremptory challenges in a discriminatory manner under the clearly erroneous standard." State v. Payne, 9th Dist. Summit No. 26655, 2013-Ohio-5230, ¶ 19, citing Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 364-365 (1991).

         {¶9} At the start of voir dire, the trial court asked the prospective jurors whether any of them had ever been convicted of a felony-level offense. Juror Number 10 then responded that he had been convicted of a felony in 2013 or 2014.[1] He later elaborated that he had been convicted in the courtroom "right next-door here." When the prosecutor expressed concern to the juror about his ability to be fair and impartial, Juror Number 10 stated that his case would not be an issue for him. He indicated that he knew he "did wrong" in his case. He also agreed that he was treated fairly by the police and prosecution in his case.

         {¶10} When the trial court asked the State for its peremptory challenges, the State asked to excuse Juror Number 10. Defense counsel then objected on the basis of Batson and asked the State to provide a race-neutral explanation. The State indicated that it was excluding Juror Number 10 because he had been convicted fairly recently of a serious felony in a nearby courtroom. The prosecutor stated: "Although [Juror Number 10] said he felt he could be fair, we felt that [], the nature of the charges and the proximity in time give us some concern about his ability to be a fair juror." In response, defense counsel argued that Juror Number 10 had conceded his guilt in his prior case and had denied that it would ...

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