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State v. Dennis

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 22, 2017


         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-16-604113-A

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Myriam A. Miranda

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor By: Marcus A. Henry Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

          BEFORE: S. Gallagher, J., Stewart, P.J., and Jones, J.


          SEAN C. GALLAGHER, J.

         {¶1} Reeco Dennis appeals his convictions for rape and kidnapping, which involved an aggregate sentence of 19 years in prison. We affirm.

         {¶2} In 1996, the victim was walking down a street late at night after she had finished her shift at work. Dennis approached, pointed a gun at the back of her head, and ordered the victim to march to an empty field away from the street. It was never determined whether the gun was real, and the victim only had a brief opportunity to see Dennis's face. Once in the field, Dennis made the victim undo her pants, and he proceeded to rape her for several minutes. She was unsure whether Dennis ejaculated, but immediately after Dennis absconded, the victim sought medical treatment.

         {¶3} The primary results of DNA testing originally identified the victim's then boyfriend. There were two fluid samples, found on the waistband and the cuff of the victim's pants, containing a DNA profile from an unidentified contributor. Twenty years later, and within the statute of limitations, the state matched the DNA profile discovered in the two samples to Dennis. The victim had never met him. In the sample found in the waistband, Dennis could not be excluded as the contributor to an almost infinite degree of likelihood, but the sample from the pant cuff was not as definitive. According to the state's expert, results of the second sample only "potentially identified Dennis.

         {¶4} After a jury trial, Dennis was found guilty of rape and kidnapping. The trial court imposed 11- and 8-year prison terms respectively and ordered Dennis to serve both sentences consecutive to each other and to another, unrelated prison term. This timely appeal followed in which Dennis advances eight assignments of error.

         {¶5} In the first assignment of error, Dennis contends that the trial court erred in admitting the victim's medical records in violation of Evid.R. 403 because either the probative value is substantially outweighed by the unfair prejudice (exclusion mandatory) or the probative value is substantially outweighed by considerations of undue delay or needless presentation of cumulative evidence (exclusion discretionary). Further, Dennis claims that the medical records were used in violation of Evid.R. 801 to bolster the victim's testimony about actually being raped; violated the Confrontation Clause under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 53-54, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004); or were unauthenticated.

         {¶6} The sole argument presented in this claimed error, aside from the conclusory references to the record, the rules of evidence, and Crawford, was the belief that the "State failed to offer any legitimate basis for allowing this irrelevant and prejudicial evidence to be presented to the jury. The admission of this evidence was prejudicial, irrelevant, and improper. Therefore, this assignment of error should be sustained."

         {¶7} The trial court has broad discretion in the admission or exclusion of evidence, and unless it has clearly abused its discretion and the defendant has been materially prejudiced thereby, an appellate court should be slow to interfere. State v. Hancock, 108 Ohio St.3d 57, 2006-Ohio-160, 840 N.E.2d 1032, ¶ 122. Even if any error can be shown, appellate courts must consider whether the introduction of the evidence was harmless error under Crim.R. 52(A). State v. Morris, 141 Ohio St.3d 399, 2014-Ohio-5052, 24 N.E.3d 1153, ¶ 29 (a conviction should not be reversed because of the admission of evidence unless the defendant can affirmatively demonstrate that the evidence prejudiced the outcome of the trial).

         {¶8} If the medical records were irrelevant, as Dennis argues, then the introduction of the records cannot be deemed prejudicial - the records had no bearing on his guilt or innocence. If, on the other hand, we consider the medical records as being relevant and agree that the records were not authenticated, Dennis bears the burden of demonstrating that the admission of the evidence prejudiced his right to a fair trial. Dennis has not met this burden. Instead, he offered the bare assertion that the introduction of the evidence was "prejudicial." It must be remembered that the victim did not know Dennis, so there are no references in the medical records to an identification, which was the only dispute at trial - there was no dispute that a rape occurred, only whether Dennis was the offender. Even if we assumed error occurred, Dennis has not demonstrated anything other than the harmless error. Crim.R. 52(A). We overrule the first assignment of error.

         {¶9} In the second assignment of error, Dennis claims the trial court erred by not instructing the jury on the lesser included offense of gross sexual imposition because in the direct examination, the victim testified that the "penetration" occurred in the "outer side of my vagina." Dennis believes this conflicts with a ...

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