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State v. Baskerville

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

May 31, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
DEANDRE J. BASKERVILLE Appellant

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR 2015 10 3270

          APPEARANCES: NATALIE M. NIESE, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and RICHARD S. KASAY, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          LYNNE S. CALLAHAN JUDGE.

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

         I.

         {¶2} On an evening in August 2015, Mr. Baskerville went to the mall with his cousin. While there, he saw an acquaintance, the victim in this matter, and approached him. According to Mr. Baskerville, the victim owed him money and he wanted to speak with the victim regarding their business arrangement. There is no dispute that, while the two spoke, an argument developed, and the victim became increasingly upset. Eventually, the two walked out of the mall together as they continued to argue. The argument ended when Mr. Baskerville removed a knife from his pocket and stabbed the victim once in the side of the neck. The victim then stumbled back into the mall where he died shortly thereafter. According to Mr. Baskerville, he stabbed the victim in self-defense. He admitted, however, that he ran from the scene, disposed of his knife, sanitized his car, burned the clothes he was wearing, and left Ohio. The police apprehended Mr. Baskerville in West Virginia the following month.

         {¶3} A grand jury indicted Mr. Baskerville on two counts of murder and one count of aggravated murder, felonious assault, and carrying a concealed weapon. The matter proceeded to a jury trial, at the conclusion of which the jury found Mr. Baskerville not guilty of aggravated murder, but guilty of his remaining charges. The trial court sentenced him to fifteen years to life in prison.

         {¶4} Mr. Baskerville now appeals from his convictions and raises eight assignments of error for our review. For ease of analysis, we rearrange and consolidate several of the assignments of error.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 1

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ALLOWING INTRODUCTION OF EVIDENCE OF OTHER CRIMES, WRONGS OR ACTS TO SHOW MR. BASKERVILLE'S CHARACTER IN VIOLATION OF THE RULES OF EVIDENCE DENYING MR. BASKERVILLE DUE PROCESS AND EQUAL PROTECTION OF LAW UNDER BOTH THE [U.S.] CONSTITUTION AND THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.

         {¶5} In his first assignment of error, Mr. Baskerville argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it allowed the State to introduce evidence about his prior convictions. He argues that the evidence was irrelevant, prejudicial, and violated Evid.R. 404(B). Upon review, Mr. Baskerville has not shown that the trial court abused its discretion.

         {¶6} Under Evid.R. 404(B), other acts evidence "is not admissible to prove that the defendant acted in conformity with the character demonstrated by the other acts, but other acts evidence may be admissible for different purposes." State v. Guerra, 9th Dist. Lorain No. 12CA010188, 2013-Ohio-5367, ¶ 17. The Rule "contains a non-exhaustive list of exceptions under which other acts evidence may be admitted for a purpose other than to show propensity." State v. Calise, 9th Dist. Summit No. 26027, 2012-Ohio-4797, ¶ 41. It specifies, for example, that other acts evidence may be admitted for purposes "such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident." Evid.R. 404(B).

         {¶7} The admission of other acts evidence is a three-step process:

The first step is to consider whether the other acts evidence is relevant to making any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. Evid.R. 401. The next step is to consider whether evidence of the other crimes, wrongs, or acts is presented to prove the character of the accused in order to show activity in conformity therewith or whether the other acts evidence is presented for a legitimate purpose, such as those stated in Evid.R. 404(B). The third step is to consider whether the probative value of the other acts evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

State v. Williams, 134 Ohio St.3d 521, 2012-Ohio-5695, ¶ 20. "Trial court decisions regarding the admissibility of other-acts evidence under Evid.R. 404(B) are evidentiary determinations that rest within the sound discretion of the trial court. Appeals of such decisions are considered by an appellate court under an abuse-of-discretion standard of review." State v. Morris, 132 Ohio St.3d 337, 2012-Ohio-2407, syllabus.

         {¶8} Mr. Baskerville acknowledges that the State did not introduce evidence about his prior convictions in its case-in-chief. Rather, he disclosed his prior convictions when he took the stand in his own defense. The State then inquired about the details of his prior convictions when cross-examining him. Mr. Baskerville argues that there was no reason for the State to "rehash and repeat" his convictions because he had already disclosed them. He also asserts that the circumstances underlying his convictions were irrelevant to his charges and that their introduction only served to portray him as a violent person.

         {¶9} Mr. Baskerville's argument essentially consists of two prongs. Under the first prong, the issue is whether the State could ask Mr. Baskerville about his prior convictions on cross-examination. Under the second prong, the issue is whether the State could ask Mr. Baskerville about the facts underlying his prior convictions. Because Mr. Baskerville testified about his prior convictions during direct examination, he "open[ed] the door for the [S]tate to question him about them on cross-examination." State v. Williams, 38 Ohio St.3d 346, 350 (1988). Thus, the State was free to inquire about his prior convictions. Mr. Baskerville's testimony on direct examination, however, did not address the details of his prior convictions. As such, Evid.R. 404(B) still applied when the State went beyond the fact of his convictions and sought to question him about their underlying circumstances. See id.

         {¶10} On direct examination, Mr. Baskerville conceded that he had a prior record consisting of a "[m]ajority of drug charges, well, marijuana charges, * * * and * * * a gun charge of basically a weapons under disability * * *." He stated that he had six or seven felonies and had "been to the penitentiary twice." It was his testimony that he had "copped out" to all of his prior felonies because he was guilty of them. Accordingly, he offered testimony that, when he was actually guilty of a crime, he conceded his wrongdoing and accepted his punishment.

         {¶11} On cross-examination, the State asked Mr. Baskerville whether his prior weapons charge prohibited him from carrying a gun, and he agreed that was the case. Over objection, the State then asked him why he had been carrying a gun, and Mr. Baskerville responded:

Actually to protect myself. I was faced with a situation where I got into it with a group [of] men at a bar. I didn't know these guys from Adam and Eve, and word around town they were going to do something to me, and these are the type of guys that like to use guns, and, I mean, they was just for my protection. I had got stopped with the gun, actually. I was going through a sobriety checkpoint and got check with the guns and money and weed.

         Following his answer, the State asked Mr. Baskerville whether he had started carrying a knife after being caught with a gun. Mr. Baskerville responded that he did not carry a knife on a daily basis, but did carry one, at times, for protection. He agreed that the "street business" he conducted was dangerous and, at times, necessitated that he carry one. The State then turned to the sanctions Mr. Baskerville had received for his prior crimes.

         {¶12} The State asked Mr. Baskerville whether all his prior convictions had been low-level felonies, and he agreed that was true. The following exchange then took place:

[PROSECUTOR:] And they all probably got probation?
[MR. BASKERVILLE:] I had to go to prison.
[PROSECUTOR:] Eventually?
[MR. BASKERVILLE:] I mean, for a couple of them, yes.
[PROSECUTOR:] Well, let's ask. Originally when you started getting your convictions you got probation, right?
[MR. BASKERVILLE:] For one, yeah, the first time I got probation, but after ...

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