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State v. McKenzie

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Highland

August 22, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DONALD MCKENZIE, Defendant-Appellant.

          Bryan Hicks, Lebanon, Ohio for Appellant.

          Anneka Collins, Highland County Prosecuting Attorney, and James Roeder, Assistant Highland County Prosecuting Attorney, Hillsboro, Ohio for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          Marie Hoover, Judge.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Donald McKenzie, appeals the judgment of the Highland County Court of Common Pleas convicting him of possessing chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine in violation of R.C. 2925.041(A), a felony of the third degree. On appeal, McKenzie argues that his conviction is supported by insufficient evidence, or alternatively, is against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         {¶ 2} McKenzie claims that the record does not support the conclusion that he possessed the chemicals. He essentially argues that the State's key witness is not credible and without her testimony, no evidence exists that he had any involvement or knowledge of what was happening.

         {¶ 3} In addition, McKenzie argues that the jury lost its way. He contends that this is demonstrated through the findings of the jury that he possessed the chemicals, but nonetheless found that his truck (which contained the chemicals) was not subject to forfeiture. He claims that the verdicts are inconsistent.

         {¶ 4} Upon review of the record, we conclude that McKenzie's conviction is supported by sufficient evidence and is not against the manifest weight of the evidence. The State presented testimony that, if believed, supports McKenzie's conviction; and this is not an exceptional case where the evidence weighs heavily in favor of McKenzie and where it is clear that the jury lost its way or created a manifest miscarriage of justice.

         {¶ 5} Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 6} On May 3, 2016, a Highland County Grand Jury indicted McKenzie on one count of possessing chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine in violation of R.C. 2925.04(A), a felony of the third degree, and an attendant forfeiture specification. The charge arose after police found pseudoephedrine, ammonium nitrate pellets, and lithium inside McKenzie's truck during a traffic stop.

         {¶ 7} On September 12, 2016, the case proceeded to trial where the following evidence was presented, in relevant part:

         {¶ 8} On December 29, 2016, Deputy Vincent Antinore of the Highland County Sherriff's Office was on routine patrol in Highland County when he passed a Ford F-150 truck with a poorly lit license plate. He turned around and confirmed that the plate was not properly lit and then initiated a routine traffic stop.

         {¶ 9} Deputy Antinore approached the car and requested identification from the occupants. The passenger, later identified as Kaitlyn Webb, immediately got out of the truck and admitted that she had an outstanding warrant. By that time, Detective Chris Bowen of the Highland County Sheriff's Office had arrived on the scene. Detective Bowen placed Webb under arrest and put her in the back of his cruiser.

         {¶ 10} Meanwhile, Deputy Antinore asked the driver, later identified as McKenzie, where he and Webb were coming from and where they were going. McKenzie stated that they were coming from his sister's house on Heathermore Trail; and they were going to his mother's house on Dundee Drive. Deputy Antinore thought this was odd because "the location we were at on North Bend Road from where he said he was coming from on Heathermore, it would not make sense for him to be on North Bend Road, because Dundee, where he was supposedly headed was parallel to where he was at."

         {¶ 11} As they were talking, Deputy Antinore noticed something covered-up on the floor of the front seat. When he returned to his cruiser to run McKenzie's information, he asked Webb about the item; and Webb indicated that it was a bag containing chemicals. Deputy Antinore returned to the truck and ordered McKenzie out of the car. McKenzie denied knowing what was in the bag and said that Webb had put the bag in the truck. Deputy Antinore told McKenzie that he was free to leave but that his truck was going to be detained.

         {¶ 12} Before leaving, McKenzie asked Deputy Antinore if he could get a few things out of his truck. Deputy Antinore and Detective Brown accompanied McKenzie to the truck where McKenzie "cautiously" removed a book from underneath the covered-up bag. In doing so, the bag fell over; and several bottles of chemicals fell out, some of which were leaking.

         {¶ 13} Suspecting that there may be an active meth lab in the truck, Deputy Antinore and Detective Bowen searched the truck. The bag contained a bottle of Coleman fuel, a bottle of muriatic acid, a bottle of Crystal drain opener, an ice compress, a package of "Damper It", and clear plastic tubing. The passenger compartment contained a plastic baggy containing a white substance, later identified as 13.45 grams of pseudoephedrine, two lithium batteries, and a receipt showing that McKenzie had purchased some batteries several days earlier.

         {¶ 14} According to Deputy Antinore and Detective Bowen, McKenzie's truck contained nearly everything needed to manufacture methamphetamine. Detective Bowen explained,

There are many different * * * ways of producing methamphetamine. The one-pot method basically consists of a soda bottle. You place ephedrine, uh, sodium hydroxide, which is a crystal drain opener, lithium batteries, solvents. All these ingredients go into one bottle and, each chemical reacts with another chemical, and each chemical has its own function and job. Uh, basically what it does is it produces meth oil. Then there is a separate phase. Once meth oil is created, you have to use acid and Damper It ...

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