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State v. Lyons

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Jefferson

June 15, 2017


         Criminal Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County, Ohio Case No. 15 CR 18

          For Plaintiff-Appellee Attorney Jane Hanlin Jefferson County Prosecutor.

          For Defendant-Appellant Attorney April Campbell.

          JUDGES: Hon. Mary DeGenaro Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Cheryl L. Waite.


          DeGENARO, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Corey Lyons, appeals the trial court's judgment convicting him of multiple offenses and sentencing him accordingly. Lyons alleges error during voir dire, challenges his tampering with evidence conviction, his sentence, and the effectiveness of trial counsel. As Lyon's arguments are meritless, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

         {¶2} Captain John Lemal of the Steubenville Police Department was on late night patrol when he witnessed a fight occurring at Club 106 and called for assistance. When he exited his vehicle, Lemal noted that several people were pushing and screaming. He advised the two groups to separate. About half of the group went back inside the bar; however, three to four females and Lyons began walking north in the parking lot of Club 106.

         {¶3} Lemal heard a metallic sound as something hit the gravel, at which point Lemal could see it was a Smith and Wesson firearm. Officer Nate Cline arrived on the scene and Lemal pointed out the weapon to Cline, and ordered everyone to immediately stop. Lyons did not stop; he began to walk faster. Lemal observed Lyons reach into the right side of his coat or pants prompting Lemal to draw his own weapon and pursue Lyons. Lyons removed a .40 Ruger and threw it near a vehicle parked outside the club. The Ruger was loaded and had one round in the chamber. Thereafter, Lyons fled and officers were unable to locate him.

         {¶4} The grand jury indicted Lyons for having a weapon while under disability, tampering with evidence, carrying a concealed weapon and failure to comply with the order of a police officer. The matter proceeded to trial and the parties stipulated that Lyons was subject to a weapons disability and not permitted to have a weapon for any reason.

         {¶5} Lyons was convicted of all charges, and sentenced to three years for having a weapon as a convicted felon, two years for tampering with evidence, eighteen months for carrying a concealed weapon, all to be served consecutively. Lyons was sentenced to six months for his misdemeanor failure to comply conviction to be served concurrently with his felony sentences.


         {¶6} In his first of six assignments of error, Lyons asserts:

Lyons' convictions should be reversed because the prosecutor indoctrinated the jury in voir dire, substantially affecting Lyons' right to a fair trial.

         {¶7} Lyons argues that the State provided overly detailed facts about the case during voir dire which prejudiced him. The State responds that voir dire was appropriate and stated basic facts that constituted the charged offenses which were confirmed by witnesses testifying during its case in chief.

         {¶8} Counsel for Lyons did not object to any statements made by the State during voir dire, instead indicating the defense was satisfied with the seated jury. As such, Lyons has waived all but plain error. Plain error is obvious and but for the error, the outcome of the trial clearly would have been otherwise. State v. Johnson, 7th Dist. No. 12 MA 137, 2014-Ohio-4253, ¶ 58.

         {¶9} Lyons relies upon State v. Clark, 981 S.W.2d 143, 146-147 (Mo.1998), for the proposition that explicit factual detail during voir dire is impermissible, but cites no Ohio case adopting this position. Lyons also relies on State v. Jackson, 107 Ohio St.3d 53, 2005-Ohio-5981, 836 N.E.2d 1173, but the Ohio Supreme Court's holding in that case is contrary to Lyons' argument:

"While it is improper for counsel to seek a commitment from prospective jurors on whether they would find specific evidence mitigating, State v. Bedford, 39 Ohio St.3d at 129, 529 N.E.2d 913, counsel should be permitted to present uncontested facts to the venire directed at revealing prospective jurors' biases. Turner v. Murray (1986), 476 U.S. 28, 36-37, 106 S.Ct. 1683, 90 L.Ed.2d 27.

Jackson, ¶ 52.

         {¶10} The State presented uncontested facts to the venire about the crimes, which were confirmed by witnesses during its case in chief. As Lyons did not establish any error, let alone plain error, this assignment of error is meritless.


         {¶11} In his second of six assignments of error, Lyons asserts:

The prosecutor's reason to preemptively strike the only black juror from the jury was race central, not race neutral under Batson, and the prosecutor's additional reason to exercise her preemptory strike was a pretext for unconstitutional discrimination.

         {¶12} The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits purposeful discrimination in the exercise of a peremptory challenge to excuse a juror based upon race. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 89, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 1719, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986). The United States Supreme Court outlined a three-step process for evaluating claims that a prosecutor has used peremptory challenges unconstitutionally; first, the defendant must make a prima facie showing that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges on the basis of race. Id. at 96-97. Second, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to articulate a race-neutral explanation for striking the jurors in question. Id. at 97-98. Finally, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has carried his burden of proving purposeful discrimination. Id. at 98. An appellate court will not reverse the trial court's decision there was no discrimination unless it is clearly erroneous. See State v. Hernandez, 63 Ohio St.3d 577, 583, 589 N.E.2d 1310 (1992).

         {¶13} Lyons satisfied the first element of a prima facie case; counsel objected after the prospective juror-who was the only African-American-was dismissed. Consequently, the burden shifted to the prosecutor to articulate a race-neutral ...

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