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State v. Meek

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

December 26, 2017

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Jonza Meek, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas No. 14CR-4930

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Michael P. Walton, for appellee.

         Argued:

         On brief:

          Brian J. Rigg, for appellant.

         Argued:

          DECISION

          DORRIAN, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Jonza Meek, appeals the July 6, 2016 judgment entry of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, convicting him pursuant to a jury verdict and imposing sentence. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} This matter arises out of a robbery which occurred on August 21, 2014 and an incident on August 25, 2014 that resulted in the shooting of J.W., a minor child at the time of the incident. On September 16, 2014, a Franklin County Grand Jury filed an indictment charging appellant with five criminal counts: aggravated robbery, in violation of R.C. 2911.01, a felony of the first degree; felonious assault, in violation of R.C. 2903.11, a felony of the second degree; improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation or school safety zone, in violation of R.C. 2923.161, a felony of the second degree; and two counts of having weapons while under disability, in violation of R.C. 2923.13, both felonies of the third degree. The count of aggravated robbery was charged with a three-year firearm specification, pursuant to R.C. 2941.145(A); the counts of felonious assault and improperly discharging a firearm were each charged with three- and five-year firearm specifications, pursuant to R.C. 2941.145(A) and 2941.146(A).

         {¶ 3} On July 13, 2015, the matter proceeded to trial by jury. At trial, Shawn Nelms aka "Mook" (hereinafter "Nelms"), testified that in August 2014 he met an individual named Edwin Goins, whom he knew as "Mikey" (hereinafter "Mikey"), at a gas station and sold him drugs. (Tr. Vol. II at 271.) Later that same month, Nelms arranged a meeting with Mikey to sell him additional drugs. Mikey arrived at the meeting with another man, who approached Nelms and pointed a gun at Nelms's face. Mikey removed Nelms's necklace and took approximately $200 to $300 from Nelms's pockets. During this confrontation, the man with the gun identified himself to Nelms as "Dewey from Miller." (Tr. Vol. II at 276.) After taking Nelms's possessions, Mikey and the other individual left the scene, but later engaged in threatening phone conversations with Nelms.

         {¶ 4} Following this incident, on August 25, 2014, Nelms was near the house of Suntina Ussury, alternatively referred to as his aunt or a family friend, on Hallidon Avenue in Columbus when he received information that persons related to the robbery were on their way to him in a blue Impala. When he heard that a blue Impala was driving down Hallidon, Nelms ran from his aunt's house to a location behind nearby apartments and attempted to hide. When the impala drove past, Nelms yelled at a neighbor to "get the kids in the house." (Tr. Vol. II at 281.) At that point, the Impala pulled up on Leonard Avenue behind the apartments where Nelms was standing. Nelms witnessed the passenger of the car, the same man who identified himself to Nelms as "Dewey from Miller, " hanging out of the car and firing a gun as they drove past. Nelms ran to his cousin's house, where he learned that J.W. had been shot.

         {¶ 5} Nelms was later interviewed by police regarding the incidents. Nelms testified that, at first, he did not want to cooperate with police. However, when they returned he identified the shooter from a photo lineup. At trial, Nelms identified appellant as the shooter.

          {¶ 6} Ussury testified she was outside on August 25, 2014 at the time of the incident and witnessed the passenger of the car firing several shots from a gun at Nelms. Ussury saw the passenger riding past her house more than once before the incident on August 25, 2014. In an interview with police following the incident, Ussury expressed hesitation about identifying anyone to police. After further questioning, Ussury identified the individual who shot at Nelms as "Dewey" and stated that a couple of days before the incident "Mike Goins and Dewey had been out there." (Tr. Vol. II at 109.) Ultimately, Ussury identified the shooter from a photo lineup and, at trial, identified the shooter as appellant.

         {¶ 7} On August 25, 2014, J.W. was inside her house getting dressed in her bedroom when a bullet flew into her room, pierced her body, and became lodged in her bedroom wall. J.W. walked to her mom's room, T.H., and told her she had been hit. T.H. grabbed J.W. and rushed her outside to the sidewalk, applying pressure to her wounds. Police arrived and secured the scene, followed by paramedics who rushed J.W. to Nationwide Children's Hospital.

         {¶ 8} Dr. Payam Saadai, a pediatric surgeon, testified regarding J.W.'s treatment. Dr. Saadai testified J.W. sustained severe injuries, including damage to her lungs, diaphragm, liver, and kidney. J.W. remained in the hospital, including the intensive care unit, for several days following the incident.

         {¶ 9} Detective Glenn Bray testified he administered two photo arrays to Nelms. Upon viewing the first array, Nelms stated he thought he could identify the shooter, but had difficulty because the photos were in black and white. When presented with the same array in color, Nelms identified the shooter. Detective Bray also interviewed appellant, who denied involvement and stated he was at a birthday party. Appellant told Detective Bray his nickname was "Dewey" and admitted he knew Nelms.

         {¶ 10} Detective Robert Cutshall testified that after appellant was arrested, he interviewed Deweysean Cox, who was also known as "Dewey." Cox denied any involvement with the incident. Detective Cutshall did not place Cox in a photo array.

         {¶ 11} Lexus Becker, a friend of appellant's, Sheryl Meek, appellant's mother, and Ethni Smith, appellant's former neighbor, all provided alibi testimony for appellant. Smith testified she was present with appellant on a Friday. Detective Cutshall testified August 25, 2014 was a Monday. Tatyanna Edwards, the mother of three of appellant's children, testified appellant asked her to be an alibi witness, but she stated she was not present with appellant on the day of the incident.

         {¶ 12} On July 14, 2015, appellant filed a waiver of his right to a jury trial on the counts of having weapons while under disability. On July 20, 2015, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the counts of aggravated robbery, felonious assault, and improperly discharging a firearm, along with all associated specifications.

         {¶ 13} On September 16, 2015, appellant filed a motion requesting a new trial, pursuant to Crim.R. 33(A)(2), in which he asserted that on August 6, 2015 appellant's counsel was informed by the office of the Franklin County Prosecutor that two of the state's witnesses had possibly lied while giving testimony in appellant's trial. On October 19, 2015, plaintiff-appellee, State of Ohio, filed a memorandum contra appellant's motion for new trial. On December 31, 2015, appellant filed a supplemental motion for new trial, including an affidavit in support of the motion. On January 5, January 27, and February 25, 2016, the trial court held hearings on appellant's motion for new trial.

         {¶ 14} Nelms testified during the motion hearing that appellant was not the person who robbed him on August 24, 2014 and not the person who shot at him on August 25, 2014. Specifically, Nelms testified that he learned from conversations with friends that the person who robbed him and shot at him "was still out there." (Jan. 27, 2016 Tr. at 6.) However, Nelms declined to identify the individuals who gave him this information. Nelms testified he had been informed of the consequences of perjury, but still wished to recant his trial testimony.

         {¶ 15} On cross-examination, Nelms testified he did not want to be known as a "snitch" although he denied knowing of any retaliation for being labeled a snitch. The state played a recording of a call between Nelms and A.P., his girlfriend:

[Nelms]: Do you feel safe now?
[A.P.]: No.
[Nelms]: What you mean no?
[A.P.]: Because I don't get -- I don't understand what's going on.
[Nelms]: What's going on is I took my word back that I said in court. So they charging me, ...

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