Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Myriam A. Miranda
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor By: Marcus A. Henry Assistant Prosecuting
BEFORE: S. Gallagher, J., Stewart, P.J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
C. GALLAGHER, J.
Reeco Dennis appeals his convictions for rape and kidnapping,
which involved an aggregate sentence of 19 years in prison.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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).
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.
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 ...