Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
Appeal From: Hamilton County TRIAL NO. B-1403591C Court of
T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Judith
Anton Lapp, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for
Farrish Law Firm and Michaela M. Stagnaro, for
Defendant-appellant Piante Wallace and two codefendants,
Tristian Herron and Clevester Steele, were originally
indicted for aggravated murder, murder, and aggravated
robbery, with accompanying firearm specifications, for the
death of Markeith Peek. Following a jury trial, Wallace was
convicted of murder under R.C. 2903.02(B), with an
accompanying firearm specification. We find no merit in his
six assignments of error, and we affirm his conviction.
The record shows that on June 18, 2014, Eugene Amison, who
was acquainted with both Steele and Herron, was spending time
on Neave Street in lower Price Hill. Amison was sitting next
to Steele, when he overheard Steele tell someone on the
phone, "I got a lick for you." After a pause,
Steele said, "[T]his Markeith dude." Unbeknownst to
Steele, Amison and Peek had been friends since childhood.
Amison knew that that conversation meant that Steele and
another person were planning to rob Peek.
Amison called Peek to warn him. Peek said that he was not
worried, but told Amison, "You better go get the ham,
" meaning a gun. Amison arranged to give Peek his 9 mm
pistol. They met up and walked to Neave and Storrs Streets.
Peek liked to wear flashy clothes, and stood out with his
yellow pants and multicolored gym shoes.
At approximately 7:00 p.m., Amison and Peek went to sit on a
wall on Neave Street. Peek told Amison, "I ain't
letting these dudes chase me off." Amison tried to
convince Peek to "walk off and let it die down
like." Peek refused. Just then, a man that Amison later
identified as Wallace walked toward them.
Amison testified that Peek was standing in the intersection
of Neave and Storrs Streets when Wallace walked up Neave
Street toward Peek with his gun drawn. Peek tried to draw his
own gun, but Wallace shot first. Peek returned fire, but he
had already been shot. Peek was "just too slow and too
late." After Peek had been shot, Wallace ran down Neave
Peek tried to cross the street, but he was limping. He fell
in the middle of the street. While he was down, Herron walked
up and attempted to grab Peek's cell phone and gun. But
Peek held onto his gun and shot at Herron four or five times.
Herron managed to take the cell phone, a white Samsung model,
and fled down Storrs Street.
People in the area began to panic. Peek's friends
gathered around him as he lay in the street. Someone took the
gun and another took a baggie of heroin that Peek had been
carrying. The gun was returned to Amison the next day.
Witnesses at the Scene
That same evening, Tyra Williams and Virginetta Bess sat
outside in front of their duplex at 646 Neave Street, across
from Henry's Market. Both women knew Peek from the
neighborhood. Earlier that day, Peek had stopped at
Williams's apartment and asked if she would charge his
cell phone. She agreed, and he left it with her. Bess also
had a conversation with Peek about 30 minutes before the
Subsequently, both women saw Wallace walk by on his way to
Henry's Market. Bess said that Wallace stood out because
he very tall and thin, and he was dressed all in black. He
was so tall that Williams asked him what basketball team he
played for. He replied that he had played for Taft High
Wallace went in Henry's Market. When he came out,
Williams saw him turn right and walk toward Storrs Street.
Wallace stopped between a corner store that had been closed
and a former restaurant with a covered entranceway. Williams
stated that it looked to her like Wallace was "hiding in
that little spot * * * just standing there hiding."
A short time later, Peek returned to pick up his cell phone
from Williams. When he left, he walked up Storrs Street. As
Peek was walking up the street, Williams heard shots. She saw
Wallace come from the area of the closed corner store. Peek
was running, and she saw him fall. She said that the
"[d]ude in black" shot Peek and fled down St.
Michael Street. She also saw Herron standing on Storrs Street
when the shots were fired. He ran toward Peek after the shots
Williams ran up to Peek, and she and others tried to stop the
bleeding that was coming from a hole in his back. She said
that Peek was in pain and kept repeating that he could not
feel his legs. He was eventually taken to the hospital, where
Bess heard the same gunshots, but a parked vehicle blocked
her view of the shooting. She looked down the street and saw
Peek lying on the ground. As she called 911, she saw Wallace
run down Neave Street and turn left on St. Michael Street.
Actions the Day of the Murder
Ryan Irwin is Steele's cousin. On the day of the murder,
Irvin had asked Steele for a ride to a relative's house.
Steele drove a gold Hyundai Sonata, which was owned by Raven
Herron, Herron's sister, with whom Steele had a child.
Steele picked up Irwin, who sat in the front passenger seat.
They drove to Raven's home for a brief visit and then
picked up Herron. Then, Steele drove to the Fay Apartments
and picked up Wallace, whom Irvin did not know.
As Steele drove to lower Price Hill, Herron and Wallace sat
in the back seat. Wallace had a gun in his lap. To
Irvin's knowledge, no one else had a gun. Wallace said
that he needed money, and Steele and Herron echoed that
sentiment. Irvin heard Herron and Wallace say that they
wanted "to rob somebody." Irvin became
uncomfortable, but no further discussion occurred.
When they reached State Street, Herron got out of the car.
Steele drove around the block a few times and eventually
parked on a side street behind a school. Irvin became
frustrated that he was not getting to his destination, but
Steele told him, "Just hold on, be cool, bruh, I got
you." Wallace got out of the car, walked up the street,
and turned the corner. Steele also got out and began talking
on his phone while pacing back and forth. Irvin heard Steele
say something about "what he had on."
A short time later, Irvin heard two gunshots, followed
seconds later by five more. Irvin wanted Steele to leave, but
Steele had jumped in the back of another car driven by an
unknown driver. Steele returned within five minutes. He then
drove with Irvin back to State Street and picked up Herron.
Steele then drove to a McDonald's some distance away and
picked up Wallace. Wallace stated that someone had drawn a
gun on him, and Wallace "had to get him." Steele
then stopped at a market, and Steele, Wallace, and Herron
went in without Irvin. They got back in the car. Steele
dropped off Wallace at the Fay Apartments, and then took
Irvin and Herron to Raven's house. Raven eventually took
Raven testified that she had lent her car to Steele the day
of the murder. She said Steele and Herron returned later that
night. At trial, she denied knowing Irvin and that Irvin had
returned in the car with Steele and Herron. She later
admitted that she had told a police detective that Irvin had
been with them. The following day, Raven bought a white
Samsung phone from Herron. The phone was "empty, "
meaning it had no pictures, videos, or anything else on it
and no SIM card. She put her own SIM card in the phone, and
began using it. She stated that she did not know that the
phone had belonged to Peek. A few days after the murder, her
car was vandalized. She reported the car stolen, but later
admitted to police she had lied. Amison later admitted to
police that he and his friends had retaliated for the
shooting by assaulting Herron and damaging Raven's car.
Detective Bill Hilbert responded to the murder scene. He
spoke with witnesses and obtained descriptions of three
suspects, who were later identified as Steele, Herron and
Wallace. Police also obtained video surveillance tapes from
Henry's Market that showed Wallace walk into the store at
about 6:53 p.m. and walk out about 6:55. Similar surveillance
videos taken at a residence on Neave ...