Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Trial Nos.
T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Philip
R. Cummings, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for
Michael J. Trapp, for Defendant-Appellant.
Defendant-appellant Melissa Morgan has appealed the judgment
of the trial court convicting her, following a jury trial, of
the murder of Maurice Mundy. Morgan raises six assignments of
error for our review. Finding no merit to her arguments, we
affirm the trial court's judgment.
Mundy was Morgan's drug dealer. On October 20, 2014,
Morgan bought drugs from Mundy and spent the night at his
house. The following morning, after Morgan had left, Mundy
discovered that he was missing approximately $250. Mundy
believed that Morgan had taken his money, and he spent much
of the day driving around with Amanda Powers looking for
Morgan at various locations, including her grandmother's
home. Through Morgan's friend Christine Gregory, Mundy
was able to set up a meeting with Morgan at Hunter Park in
Norwood that afternoon.
Morgan and Gregory were already at Hunter Park when Mundy
arrived with Powers. Morgan and Mundy immediately confronted
each other. During their argument, Mundy hit Morgan in the
face, and Morgan then stabbed Mundy in the neck with a knife.
This confrontation was witnessed by numerous people. These
witnesses collectively heard Mundy demand his money and heard
Morgan deny having taken it. They witnessed Mundy hit Morgan,
heard Morgan threaten to stab Mundy, and then saw her
actually stab him.
Morgan was initially indicted for the offense of felonious
assault. But after Mundy died from his injuries approximately
one year later, Morgan was indicted for the offense of murder
under R.C. 2903.02(B).
Her case proceeded to a jury trial, where Morgan argued that
she had stabbed Mundy in self-defense. The jury rejected
Morgan's claim of self-defense and found her guilty of
murder. The trial court sentenced Morgan to a term of 15
years to life imprisonment.
In her first assignment of error, Morgan argues that the
trial court erred by admitting character evidence of her
propensity for violence.
We review the trial court's admission of evidence for an
abuse of discretion. State v. Brand, 1st Dist.
Hamilton No. C-150590, 2016-Ohio-7456, ¶ 27, citing
State v. Noling, 98 Ohio St.3d 44, 2002-Ohio-7044,
781 N.E.2d 88, ¶ 43. An abuse of discretion
"connotes more than an error of law or of judgment; it
implies an unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable attitude
on the part of the court." Pembaur v. Leis, 1
Ohio St.3d 89, 91, 437 N.E.2d 1199 (1982).
Pursuant to Evid.R. 404(A), character evidence is generally
not admissible to prove action in conformity therewith. But,
"[e]vidence of a pertinent trait of character offered by
an accused, or by the prosecution to rebut the same is
admissible." Evid.R. 404(A)(1). When a defendant
presents evidence of a specific character trait, the door is
opened for the prosecution to rebut that evidence. State
v. Garcia, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 102546, 2016-Ohio-585,
¶ 68; State v. Mitchell, 1st Dist. Hamilton
Nos. C-050416 and C-050417, 2006-Ohio-5073, ¶ 73.
The prosecutor began her cross-examination of Morgan by
asking Morgan, "What about the fights that you have had
throughout your life?" Defense counsel immediately
raised an objection that was overruled by the trial court.
Referring to discussions that must have taken place off the
record, the trial court stated that the parties had talked
about this issue a number of times, and it ...