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State v. Joyner

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Pickaway

November 8, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
REUBEN L. JOYNER, Defendant-Appellant.

         CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM COMMON PLEAS COURT

          Reuben L. Joyner, Orient, Ohio, Appellant Pro Se.

          Judy C. Wolford, Pickaway County Prosecutor, and Jayme Hartley Fountain, Pickaway County Assistant Prosecutor, Circleville, Ohio, for appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          PETER B. ABELE, JUDGE.

         {¶ 1} Reuben L. Joyner, defendant below and appellant herein, appeals from the Pickaway County Common Pleas Court denial of his motion to withdraw a guilty plea and assigns the following error for review:

"THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN THE COURT FAILED TO "SQUARELY ADDRESS" THE EVIDENTIARY ISSUES RAISED BY THE DEFENDANT IN HIS CRIMINAL RULE 32.1 MOTION TO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA, IN VIOLATION OF ARTICLE ONE SECTION SIXTEEN OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION AND THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES."

         {¶ 2} On March 20, 2015, a Pickaway County Grand Jury returned an indictment that charged appellant with seventeen counts, including: (1) engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity with a specification as a major drug offender, (2) trafficking in cocaine with a specification as a major drug offender, (3) three counts of trafficking in cocaine, (4) nine counts of trafficking in heroin, (5) complicity to trafficking in heroin, (6) trafficking in heroin, (7) possession of heroin, and (8) possession of cocaine. These counts included three first-degree felonies, one second-degree felony, one third-degree felony, two fourth-degree felonies, and ten fifth-degree felonies. Appellant pled not guilty to all charges.

         {¶ 3} On January 13, 2016, the trial court arraigned appellant on an amended indictment that included (1) one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity with specification as a major drug offender (Count 1), a second-degree felony, (2) trafficking in cocaine with specification as a major drug offender (Count 2), a first-degree felony, (3)trafficking in heroin (Count 27), a second-degree felony, and (4) possession of cocaine (Count 31), a fourth-degree felony. On January 28, 2016, the trial court explained appellant's rights under the United States and Ohio Constitutions, as well as Ohio law, the nature of the crimes charged and their penalties, appellant's right to a trial by jury, compulsory process, confrontation of witnesses, right against self-incrimination, and the state's burden of proof. Appellant then pled guilty to the amended indictment.

         {¶ 4} On March 3, 2016, the trial court sentenced appellant to serve five years on Count 1, eleven years mandatory on Count 2, four years on Count 27, and 24 months on Count 31. The court further ordered that (1) the sentences for Counts 2 and 31 be served concurrently, (2) after the completion of the mandatory 11 year sentence for Count 2, the sentences for Counts 1 and 27 are suspended, and (3) appellant will serve 5 years of community control.

         {¶ 5} Nearly one year later, on February 3, 2017, appellant filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea pursuant to Crim.R. 32.1, as well as a "Motion for Request of Mutual Rescission of Plea Agreement." After the state responded, the trial court denied both motions. This appeal followed.[1]

         {¶ 6} Appellant asserts in his assignment of error that the trial court erred by denying his post-sentence motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Crim.R. 32.1 provides: "A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest may be made only before sentence is imposed; but to correct manifest injustice the court after sentence may set aside the judgment of conviction and permit the defendant to withdraw his or her plea." A defendant seeking to withdraw a guilty plea after sentencing has the burden to establish that a manifest injustice will occur if the plea stands. State v. Smith, 49 Ohio St.2d 261, 361 N.E.2d 1324 (1977), paragraph one of the syllabus. A manifest injustice is a "clear or openly unjust act." State v. Darget, 4th Dist. Scioto No. 12CA3487, 2013-Ohio-603, ¶ 21, citing State v. Dotson, 4th Dist. Washington No. 03CA53, 2004-Ohio-2768, ¶ 5, citing State ex rel. Schneider v. Kreiner, 83 Ohio St.3d 203, 208, 699 N.E.2d 83 (1998). This is an extremely high standard and will permit a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea only in extraordinary cases. Darget at ¶ 21, citing State v. Whitaker, 4th Dist. Scioto No. 10CA3349, 2011-Ohio-6923, ¶ 8.

         {¶ 7} Crim.R. 32.1 requires a defendant making a post-sentence motion to withdraw a plea to demonstrate manifest injustice because it is designed "to discourage a defendant from pleading guilty to test the weight of potential reprisal, and later withdraw the plea if the sentence was unexpectedly severe." State v. Boswell, 121 Ohio St.3d 575, 2009-Ohio-1577, 906 N.E.2d 422, ¶ 9, quoting State v. Caraballo, 17 Ohio St.3d 66, 67, 477 N.E.2d 627 (1985). Further, the decision to grant or to deny a Crim.R. 32.1 motion is generally committed to the trial court's sound discretion and appellate review of the denial of a post-sentence motion to withdraw a guilty plea is limited to a determination of whether the trial court abused its discretion. The term 'abuse of discretion' connotes an attitude on the part of the court that is unreasonable, unconscionable, or arbitrary." Whitaker at ¶ 9.

         {¶ 8} Turning to the case at bar, appellant argues that the trial court's denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea failed to "squarely address" the evidentiary issues raised within the motion. Appellant relies on State v. Jeffrey, 9th Dist. Summit No. 26639, 2013-Ohio-2985, to support his claims. Jeffrey was indicted on 11 counts and later pled guilty to burglary and domestic violence. After pleading guilty and being released on bond to attend two family funerals, Jeffrey failed to appear and was later arrested. Id. at ¶ 3. The trial court denied Jeffrey's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, and, on appeal, the Ninth District reversed. Appellant, however, fails to notice the striking differences between this case and Jeffrey. Most notably, the Jeffrey court considered Jeffrey's motion to be a pre-sentence motion to withdraw a plea, which "should be freely and liberally granted." State v. Xie, 62 Ohio St.3d 521, 527, 584 N.E.2d 715 (1992). Here, appellant filed his motion eleven months after his sentence. This court has noted that timeliness "is a factor adversely affecting the credibility of the movant and militating against the granting of the motion." Darget at ¶ 19, quoting State v. Bush, 96 Ohio St.3d 235, 2002-Ohio-3993, 773 N.E.2d 522. Second, Jeffrey claimed that the recent deaths of his daughter and sister had affected his plea. The court held that while the trial court had considered his sister's death, it did not consider the impact of his five-year-old daughter's recent death and the fact that Jeffrey had to make funeral arrangements for his daughter as well as his sister. Jeffrey at ¶ 10-11. Finally, Jeffrey argued that he did not understand the elements of the charges against him, and that if he had, he would not have pled guilty. In the case sub judice, appellant makes no claim that he did not understand the elements of the charges against him. In fact, our review of the transcript reveals that the trial court thoroughly explained the charges against appellant and questioned him to be sure that his plea was knowing and voluntary. Thus, we find Jeffrey to be inapplicable.

         {¶ 9} Appellant further contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea because: (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel "knew that appellant could not have been convicted of a major drug offender specification where nowhere in the record had the appellant met the statutory qualifications for a major drug offender specification, " (2) the trial court erred in finding that appellant's ineffective ...


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