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State v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

October 26, 2017

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Sandrine Taylor, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No. 16CR-1187)

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, Barbara A. Farnbacher, for appellee.

          The Hemminger Law Firm, LLC and Chad K. Hemminger, for appellant.


          Barbara A. Farnbacher.

          Chad K. Hemminger.


          LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Sandrine Taylor, appeals from a judgment entry of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas finding her guilty, pursuant to jury verdict, of one count of theft. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} By indictment filed March 3, 2016, plaintiff-appellee, State of Ohio, charged Taylor with one count of theft in violation of R.C. 2913.02, a fifth-degree felony. The indictment alleged Taylor stole merchandise from Walmart valued at or more than $1, 000 and less than $7, 500. Taylor entered a plea of not guilty.

         {¶ 3} At a jury trial commencing January 30, 2017, Shaundreika Reed, an asset protection associate at the Walmart located at 3900 Morse Road, testified that on February 18, 2016, she was working the night shift when she saw two women on the store's surveillance video who were randomly selecting items without checking prices and putting them into two shopping carts, behavior which she found "suspicious." (Jan. 31, 2017 Tr. Vol. I at 55.) Reed said she watched on the surveillance video as the two women picked up blankets and apparel and then moved to the store's grocery section, filling their carts with "random food, " again without checking prices. (Tr. Vol. I at 55.) Once the women arrived in the pet department, Reed testified they began bagging the items in their cart into clear bags they had obtained from the grocery department. The two women remained in the pet aisle for nearly two hours.

         {¶ 4} Reed testified that the Walmart on Morse Road has approximately 40 surveillance cameras set up throughout the store but that the view of the two women was partially obscured when they were in the pet aisle, so Walmart sent another asset protection associate out on the floor to watch the women bagging up the items in their cart. When the two women emerged from the pet aisle, their two shopping carts were full of bagged merchandise that had been placed inside of large tote bags. Once the two women arrived at the registers at the front of the store, one of the women selected a few items from her cart and paid for a total of 18 items, which cost a total of approximately $65, leaving the rest of the merchandise in their carts. Reed then watched as the two women walked past the last point of sale with the two carts full of merchandise for which they did not pay.

         {¶ 5} As the women were attempting to exit the store, Reed approached them along with two other asset protection associates and four officers from the Columbus Division of Police. Reed said she then learned the two women were a mother and daughter. She identified Taylor in court as the mother from the pair of women. Reed testified Taylor apologized to her for what she had just done. Reed also said the daughter claimed that she had paid for all the remaining items.

         {¶ 6} Reviewing the surveillance footage, Reed was able to determine the women entered the store around 4:30 p.m. and attempted to leave around 11:30 p.m., meaning they were in the store for seven hours. Reed testified that the women continued to place items into their carts during that entire seven-hour window and that at no time did either one of them pay for the items other than the 18 they selected and paid for when they tried to leave the store. The state played the surveillance footage for the jury and also admitted into evidence still photographs of Taylor and her daughter entering the store. The surveillance footage showed the two women placing items into each other's carts and moving items from one cart to the other. Reed testified the two women were together for almost the entire seven hours with the exception of one of them leaving for a few minutes to grab an item and return.

         {¶ 7} Taylor never produced a receipt for the remaining items she claimed she had paid for. Reed testified that Walmart has a "smart system" in its computers that allows the asset protection team to see which items were purchased from the store at what times. (Tr. Vol. I at 83.) Using that smart system, Reed was able to verify that neither Taylor nor her daughter had purchased the remaining items in the carts. Reed also provided the surveillance footage to police.

         {¶ 8} After police apprehended Taylor and her daughter, Reed said Walmart's asset protection team took the remaining items in the carts and generated a print out of all the items that were not paid for and their accompanying retail prices. Reed testified that there were 375 items that the two women had not paid for totaling $2, 356.10.

         {¶ 9} Jennifer Smith, another asset protection officer for Walmart, testified that she went onto the sales floor to observe Taylor and her daughter once the view of them on the surveillance cameras became obstructed. Smith testified she watched as Taylor and her daughter bagged merchandise into the clear bags from the grocery department and then took large tote bags from another department of the store and began filling those tote bags with the merchandise in their carts. Smith said she stood approximately ten feet away from the women while they were in the pet aisle bagging up the merchandise.

         {¶ 10} Stanford Speaks, an officer with the Columbus Division of Police, testified that he was working special duty at the Walmart on Morse Road on the night of February 18, 2016. Officer Speaks testified that one of the asset protection officers at Walmart alerted him to Taylor's suspicious behavior in the store so he went into the asset protection office and observed on the surveillance footage Taylor and her daughter bagging up "a tremendous amount" of merchandise. (Feb. 1, 2017 Tr. Vol. II at 162.) Officer Speaks said police officers get involved with someone suspected of stealing merchandise once that person walks past the last point of sale without paying for the merchandise. Officer Speaks testified that when Taylor and her daughter walked past the last point of sale, he came out of the asset protection office and approached the two women, attempting to escort them into the office; however, Officer Speaks said Taylor's daughter "became very agitated" and would not cooperate. (Tr. Vol. II at 166.) Further, Officer Speaks testified the daughter kept saying she had paid for everything.

         {¶ 11} At the close of the state's evidence, defense counsel made a Crim.R. 29 motion for acquittal. The trial court denied the motion.

         {¶ 12} Sanvera Winbush, Taylor's 26-year-old daughter, testified she was shopping with her mother at Walmart on February 18, 2016, something she said they do together frequently. Winbush testified she typically spends "[a]t least five hours" at Walmart when she shops there with her mother. (Tr. Vol. II at 195.) Winbush said she paid for $412 worth of merchandise although she could not produce a receipt for the items. Winbush was convicted of theft in relation to this incident.

         {¶ 13} David Bola, a neighbor of Taylor's, testified he has lived near Taylor since 2002. Bola testified he has known Taylor to be honest and truthful. However, Bola admitted he knew nothing about the incident at Walmart, was not an eyewitness, was not present at the scene, and had not seen the surveillance video.

         {¶ 14} Another neighbor, Aaron Robinson, Sr., testified he has lived near Taylor for approximately five years and that he finds Taylor to be "very trustworthy." (Feb. 2, 2017 Tr. Vol. III at 36.) Robinson also had no knowledge of the incident at Walmart, was not present at the scene, was not an eyewitness, and had not seen the surveillance video.

         {¶ 15} Finally, Taylor testified in her own defense. She testified that her daughter had paid for everything in her shopping cart except the dog food and the water and that her daughter had showed her a receipt. Taylor admitted she was in the pet aisle with her daughter for approximately two hours where they were bagging up merchandise. Taylor said that by the time ...

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