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State v. Pichardo-Reyes

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

November 13, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JUAN PICHARDO-REYES, Defendant-Appellant.


          Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney, Willa Concannon, Government Services Center, for plaintiff-appellee

          Scott N. Blauvelt, for defendant-appellant


          PIPER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Juan Reyes, appeals his convictions and sentence in the Butler County Court of Common Pleas for felonious assault and domestic violence.

         {¶ 2} Reyes and Carmen Lopez lived together and had three children. On the evening in question, Reyes went to a friend's house where he consumed alcohol. Lopez called Reyes' friend and asked when Reyes would be home because he had to work the next morning. Reyes' friend refused to give information to Lopez. Lopez then informed Reyes' friend that Reyes would be locked out of the home if he returned too late. Lopez then locked and chained the door to the apartment and placed a piece of furniture in front of the door.

         {¶ 3} Reyes returned home around 1:00 a.m., and was unable to unlock the door. After Reyes knocked on the door and received no answer, he sat outside of the apartment until Lopez unlocked the door and removed the piece of furniture. Once Lopez unlocked the door, she hid in a kitchen closet because she feared repercussion for locking the door. Reyes searched the apartment for Lopez and found her in the kitchen closet. Reyes then dragged Lopez toward their bedroom, pulling out part of her hair during the process. A physical struggle then ensued between Lopez and Reyes, which caused the children to awake and come out of their bedroom.

         {¶ 4} Lopez ran with the children into the bedroom and barricaded the door. During this time, Reyes retrieved a knife from the kitchen and used the knife when attempting to open the bedroom door. Reyes screamed that Lopez was going to die, and he eventually pushed the door open. Lopez and the oldest child were able to knock the knife from Reyes' hand, and Lopez hid the knife under the living room furniture. Reyes followed Lopez into the living room and began to strangle her.

         {¶ 5} A neighbor heard the fighting and knocked on Reyes and Lopez's door. The neighbor's knocking allowed Lopez to free herself from Reyes, and she and her son ran to the door. The child told the neighbor that Reyes had a knife and was trying to kill them. The neighbor observed marks and injuries on both Lopez and Reyes, and ran to her apartment to call 9-1-1.

         {¶ 6} Once police arrived, Lopez explained that Reyes had bit her, punched her, and also pulled out some of her hair before strangling her. Police then took photographs of Lopez's injuries, as well as various places in the apartment where there was blood. Lopez also told police that she scratched and bit Reyes during the struggle.

         {¶ 7} Reyes was treated for his injuries at the hospital, and subsequently charged with felonious assault and domestic violence. Reyes pled not guilty, and the matter proceeded to a three-day trial. The jury found Reyes guilty on both counts and the trial court sentenced Reyes to five years in prison for count one and 180 days on count two. Reyes was ordered to serve the sentences concurrently. Reyes now appeals his convictions and sentence, raising the following assignments of error. We will address Reyes' assignments of error together when appropriate and interrelated.

         {¶ 8} Assignment of Error No. 1:


         {¶ 10} Assignment of Error No. 2:


         {¶ 12} Reyes argues in his first and second assignments of error that his convictions were not supported by sufficient evidence and were against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         {¶ 13} Whether the evidence presented at trial is legally sufficient to sustain a verdict is a question of law. State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386 (1997). When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence underlying a criminal conviction, an appellate court examines the evidence in order to determine whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Paul, 12th Dist. Fayette No. CA2011-10-026, 2012-Ohio-3205, ¶ 9. Therefore, "[t]he relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus.

         {¶ 14} A manifest weight of the evidence challenge examines the "inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence, offered at a trial, to support one side of the issue rather than the other." State v. Barnett, 12th Dist. Butler No. CA2011-09-177, 2012-Ohio-2372, ¶ 14. To determine whether a conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence, the reviewing court must look at the entire record, weigh the evidence and all reasonable inferences, consider the credibility of the witnesses, and determine whether in resolving the conflicts in the evidence, the trier of fact clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered. State v. Graham, 12th Dist. Warren No. CA2008-07-095, 2009-Ohio-2814, ¶ 66.

         {¶ 15} In reviewing the evidence, an appellate court must be mindful that the jury, as the original trier of fact, was in the best position to judge the credibility of witnesses and determine the weight to be given to the evidence. State v. Blankenburg, 197 Ohio App.3d 201, 2012-Ohio-1289, ¶ 114 (12th Dist.). Therefore, an appellate court will overturn a conviction due to the manifest weight of the evidence "only in the exceptional case in which the evidence weighs heavily against the conviction." Id. Although the legal concepts of sufficiency of the evidence and weight of the evidence are quantitatively and qualitatively different, "[a] determination that a conviction is supported by the manifest weight of the evidence will also be dispositive of the issue of sufficiency." State v. Jones, 12th Dist. Butler No. CA2012-03-049, 2013-Ohio-150, ¶ 19.

         {¶ 16} Reyes was convicted of felonious assault in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(2), which provides that no person shall, "cause or attempt to cause physical harm to another or to another's unborn by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance." Reyes was also convicted of domestic violence in violation of R.C. 2919.25(A), which provides, "no person shall knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a family or household member."

         {¶ 17} After reviewing the evidence, we find that Reyes' convictions were supported by sufficient evidence and were not against the manifest weight of the evidence. The state presented testimony from Lopez, who explained what happened on the night in question. Lopez testified that she and Reyes share three children, who were nine, seven, and six years old at the time of the trial. She and Reyes have been in a relationship, and live together in Butler County.

         {¶ 18} Lopez testified that on the night in question, Reyes left the apartment with a bottle of rum, and informed her that he was going to visit a friend in the next apartment building. Lopez attempted to call Reyes later that night, but spoke with his friend instead. Lopez informed the friend that if Reyes tried to come home in the early hours of the morning, he would not be able to get into the apartment. Lopez then locked the door and secured it with a chain lock. She also pushed a piece of furniture against the door. Reyes returned to the apartment around 1:00 a.m. and could not get inside given the locked and barricaded door. However, Lopez eventually moved the furniture and unlocked the door so that Reyes could get into the apartment.

         {¶ 19} Lopez testified that she hid in the kitchen closet so that Reyes could not find her because she "knew he was going to get mad for what [she] did." Lopez further testified that she feared for her safety, and that Reyes began to look for her around the apartment once he entered. When Reyes found Lopez, he grabbed her by her hair and dragged her to their bedroom. During this time, Reyes pulled a chunk of Lopez's hair from her scalp and threw it down. The children awoke and came into ...

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