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State v. Clifton

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Brown

December 18, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KENNETH CLIFTON, Defendant-Appellant.

         CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM BROWN COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. CRI2016-2114

          Zachary A. Corbin, Brown County Prosecuting Attorney, Mary McMullen, for plaintiff-appellee

          Patrick T. Clark, for defendant-appellant

          OPINION

          S. POWELL, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Kenneth Clifton, appeals from the decision of the Brown County Court of Common Pleas denying his motion to suppress in a case where a jury ultimately found him guilty of illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine, a third-degree felony. For the reasons outlined below, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} On May 19, 2016, the Brown County Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Clifton with two counts of illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine in violation of R.C. 2925.041(A), one a second-degree felony and the other a third-degree felony, as well as one count of endangering children in violation of 2919.22(B)(6), also a third-degree felony. The charges arose after Clifton was implicated in activities associated with the manufacture of methamphetamine on property located on U.S. Route 62 in Brown County, Ohio. Clifton was subsequently arraigned and counsel was appointed to represent Clifton before the trial court. Clifton was then transported to the Brown County Jail where he remained at all times relevant.

         {¶ 3} On September 20, 2016, Clifton filed a motion to suppress the alleged inculpatory statements he made to Deputy Brandon Johnson on September 5, 2016 while still incarcerated at the Brown County Jail. In these statements, Clifton detailed his involvement in the manufacture of methamphetamine at the U.S. Route 62 property, boasting and bragging about his acumen in the production of methamphetamine. It is undisputed that Deputy Johnson was working as a corrections officer at the Brown County Jail when the statements were made. In support of his motion, Clifton alleged violations of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to the United States Constitution as expressed by the United States Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966).

         {¶ 4} After holding a hearing on the matter, during which the trial court heard testimony from both Deputy Johnson and Clifton, the trial court denied Clifton's motion to suppress. In so holding, the trial court found Deputy Johnson's testimony credible, thereby finding Clifton's statements made to Deputy Johnson on September 5, 2016 while he was incarcerated at the Brown County Jail were voluntary and that "at no point in time was [Clifton] uncomfortable by the conversation or was [Clifton] being interrogated." The matter then proceeded to a jury trial, following which, as noted above, Clifton was found guilty of one count of illegal assembly or possession of chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine, a third-degree felony.

         {¶ 5} Clifton now appeals from the trial court's decision denying his motion to suppress, raising a single assignment of error for review.

         {¶ 6} THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED A PREJUDICIAL ERROR WHEN IT DENIED KENNETH CLIFTON'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS HIS SEPTEMBER 5, 2016 STATEMENTS.

         {¶ 7} In his single assignment of error, Clifton argues the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress. We disagree.

         Standard of Review

         {¶ 8} Appellate review of a ruling on a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. State v. Gray, 12th Dist. Butler No. CA2011-09-176, 2012-Ohio-4769, ¶ 15, citing State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 2003-Ohio-5372, ¶ 8. When considering a motion to suppress, the trial court, as the trier of fact, is in the best position to weigh the evidence in order to resolve factual questions and evaluate witness credibility. State v. Vaughn, 12th Dist. Fayette No. CA2014-05-012, 2015-Ohio-828, ¶ 8. In turn, this court is bound to accept the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by competent, credible evidence. State v. Dugan, 12th Dist. Butler No. CA2012-04-081, 2013-Ohio-447, ¶ 10. "'Accepting these facts as true, the appellate court must then independently determine, without deference to the conclusion of the trial court, whether the facts satisfy the applicable legal standard.'" State v. Runyon, 12th Dist. Clermont No. CA2010-05-032, 2011-Ohio-263, ¶ 12, quoting Burnside at ¶ 8.

         Sixth Amendment ...


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