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State v. Weaver

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Muskingum

June 16, 2017

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
EMILE L. WEAVER Defendant-Appellant

         Criminal Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Case No. CR2015-0216

          For Plaintiff-Appellee D. MICHAEL HADDOX PROSECUTING ATTORNEY GERALD V. ANDERSON II ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR

          For Defendant-Appellant NIKKI TRAUTMAN BASZYNSKI ASSISTANT PUBLIC DEFENDER

          JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P. J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.

          OPINION

          Wise, John, J.

         {¶1} Appellant Emile Weaver appeals her conviction, in the Court of Common Pleas, Muskingum County, for aggravated murder and three additional felony counts. Appellee is the State of Ohio. The relevant facts leading to this appeal are as follows.

         {¶2} In the spring of 2015, Appellant Weaver was a student at Muskingum University, residing in a campus sorority house on Lakeside Drive in New Concord. She was pregnant, but she had in various ways denied or covered up this fact.

         {¶3} On April 22, 2015, appellant went into a bathroom in the sorority house and, without assistance, delivered a daughter, Addison Grace Weaver. The baby was delivered into the toilet; appellant, while bleeding profusely, delivered the placenta, cut the umbilical cord, and pulled the baby out of the toilet. She then placed the placenta and the baby in a small pail that was in the bathroom. She thereupon left the bathroom and rested on a couch.

         {¶4} At some point, appellant returned to the bathroom with a garbage bag and placed the baby, the placenta, paper towels, and some of her clothing inside the bag. She then carried the bag to the side door of the sorority house and placed it outside, next to a garbage can. After this, she went back inside the house to lie down.

         {¶5} Later that day, two sorority members found the bag lying next to the house. They tore a hole in the bag and thereupon contacted university officials.

         {¶6} After first responders came to the scene, paramedics asked appellant if she was the mother of the baby found outside. Appellant answered in the negative. Appellant was also interviewed that night by Detective Todd Mahle of the Muskingum County Sheriffs Office. The interview took place from 10:26 p.m. until 3:46 a.m. in a break room at the Muskingum University Police building. Appellant eventually detailed to the detective the events that had occurred that morning, although she presented different versions as to whether Addison was born alive and the type of movements or noises she made during the whole incident. Detective Mahle did not utilize any recording equipment during the interview. At Mahle's request, appellant returned the next day at about noon to provide a recorded statement.

         {¶7} An autopsy was subsequently performed on Addison. The results showed that she had been born alive, but had died of asphyxiation. Tr. at 347, 350, 382.

         {¶8} On July 22, 2016, appellant was indicted by the Muskingum County Grand Jury on one count of aggravated murder, one count of gross abuse of a corpse, and two counts of tampering with evidence.

         {¶9} The case proceeded to a jury trial commencing on May 10, 2016. The State's theory was that Addison died from lack of oxygen after appellant placed her inside the garbage bag. Tr. at 871. Appellant's trial counsel moved for an instruction on reckless homicide, based on the defense theory that the baby could have died from positional asphyxiation from the way that appellant placed the baby in the pail. The request for the instruction was granted. Tr. at 812, 815, 881. However, Dr. Jeffrey Lee, the deputy coroner who conducted the autopsy, had expressed doubt in his testimony that positional asphyxiation was the cause of death or asphyxiation. See Tr. at 408.

         {¶10} Appellant was ultimately found guilty on all counts. At sentencing, the trial court merged the two tampering-with-evidence counts and imposed a one-year prison sentence on said offense. The trial court further imposed a three-year prison sentence for gross abuse of a corpse. It ordered these sentences to run consecutively to each other and to the sentence for aggravated murder. Finally, the trial court imposed life in prison without parole for the offense of aggravated murder. In support of its sentencing decision, the trial court concluded that appellant was not remorseful, that she had committed "the worst form of the offense, " and that she had caused emotional hardship to her sorority sisters. Sentencing Tr. at 10-16.

         {¶11} On July 20, 2016, appellant filed a notice of appeal. She herein raises the following four Assignments of Error:

         {¶12} "I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT IMPOSED A LIFE-WITHOUT-PAROLE ...


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