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State v. Randle

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Third District, Marion

January 22, 2018


         Appeal from Marion County Common Pleas Court Trial Court No. 14-CR-0444 and 16-CR-0596

          Nathan D. Witkin for Appellant

          Kevin P. Collins for Appellee


          WILLAMOWSKI, P.J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Korey T. Randle ("Randle") appeals the judgments of the Marion County Court of Common Pleas, alleging (1) that the offenses of aggravated robbery and kidnapping should have merged at sentencing; (2) that the State violated ethical duties in the prosecution of this case; (3) that the trial court erred by overruling his motion for a mistrial after the prosecution requested a recess to "bolster" a State witness's testimony; and (4) that the jury returned a verdict against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the reasons set forth below, the judgments of the lower court are affirmed.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} At 7:00 in the morning on July 22, 2017, Matthew Thomas ("Thomas") left work and returned to his home on Cherry Street in Marion, Ohio. Trial Tr. 315. At roughly 10:00 that morning, Randle came to Thomas's house for a visit. Id. at 317. According to Thomas, he and Randle, at some point that morning, decided to commit a robbery. Id. at 322. They got in Thomas's car-which was a maroon Chrysler PT Cruiser with flames decaled on the front-and drove to Randle's house. Id. at 322, 354. Thomas testified that they picked up jumpsuits at Randle's house and then drove to Al's Country Market. Id. at 322, 324.

         {¶3} Once they arrived at Al's Country Market, Thomas parked in the lot in front of the store. Id. at 324. Thomas testified that he got out of the car and walked into the front door of the store while Randle walked around the back of the store. Id. at 325. When Thomas entered the store, no one was behind the counter. Id. at 148, 326-327. Thomas testified that he then saw Randle walk around the corner with an employee of Al's Country Market-who was Paulette Bullion ("Bullion")-walking in front of him at knife point. Id. at 326-327.

         {¶4} Thomas testified that he and Randle yelled orders to Bullion. Id. at 327. Bullion testified that, at this point, the two men ordered her to put the money from the register into a bag. Id. at 174. Once Bullion had emptied the contents of the cash register and the lottery box into a plastic bag, Thomas told Bullion to go to the back of the store. Id. at 349. Randle, holding his knife, walked Bullion to the back of the store where he directed Bullion to go into a closet. Id. at 352. Thomas and Randle then pushed a table and chair in front of the door. Id. at 352. After the table was secured in front of the door, Thomas grabbed Bullion's purse off of the table, and Randle and Thomas exited the store. Id. at 352-353. Shortly after Thomas and Randle left, a customer entered the store. Id. at 152. Bullion, from inside the closet, called out to the customer, who let Bullion out of the closet. Id. Bullion then called the police. Id.

         {¶5} Thomas testified that he and Randle then drove out of the parking lot of Al's Country Market and went to the house of Iris Rogers ("Rogers"), who was Randle's cousin. Id. at 327, 426. At Rogers's house, Randle gave Thomas his half of the money that they had stolen from Al's Country Market. Id. at 332. Thomas stated that he spent this money on cocaine at Rogers's house. Id. at 332. From this location, Thomas began driving back to his house on Cherry Street. Id. at 334. Law enforcement had, by this time, identified the maroon PT Cruiser that Thomas drove to Al's Country Market as belonging to Thomas and were searching for Thomas. Id. When Thomas drove onto Cherry Street, the police saw his vehicle and apprehended him. Id. Thomas did not cooperate with the sheriffs office in this investigation. Id. at 338. He did cooperate with the prosecutor's office after a plea agreement had been negotiated. Id. at 378. At this point, Thomas implicated Randle in the offenses that were committed in Al's Country Market. Id.

         {¶6} Randle was indicted on November 17, 2016. Doc. 1. Randle's trial began on February 2, 2017. Trial Tr. 1. At trial, Bullion testified about the incident. Id. at 147. On cross examination, she testified about the statement that she gave to the police. Id. at 178, 180. The Defense questioned her about a statement she made that indicated that one of the perpetrators sounded as though they had a foreign accent. Id. at 180. However, at trial, she explained that the accent sounded like an attempt by the perpetrator to disguise his voice. Id. She also stated that the perpetrator sounded clearer as he continued to speak. Id.

         {¶7} At the beginning of Thomas's direct examination, the prosecutor asked Thomas whether he committed the robbery with another person. Id. at 310. In response, Thomas said, "I need a minute." Id. At this point, the prosecutor asked the trial judge for a brief recess and said, "I don't want to coach him." Id. The trial court ordered a recess of ten minutes over the objection of the Defense. Id. at 311. After the ten-minute recess, the Defense made a motion for a mistrial, arguing that the jury may have been compromised by this "prejudicial occurrence" and that Thomas should have been prepared to testify prior to coming to court on the day of trial. Id. at 311. In response the prosecutor said,

Your Honor, I don't think it's unusual for an accomplice witness to get cold feet. He's worried about his health and safety. He's worried about the health and safety of his family. I just reminded him that-what he's supposed to be doing here today. He needed to gird his loins for a moment. He's prepared to testify. I don't think a mistrial is necessary. I think that would be the strictest sanction. I don't know that the jury has been compromised at all.

Id. at 312. The trial court then overruled the Defense's motion for a mistrial. Id.

         {¶8} Thomas then testified as to why he was "reluctant to testify." Id. at 314. Thomas explained that, while he was in the county jail, another inmate was attacked. Id. Thomas identified the person who had perpetrated this attack. Id. at 314-315. Ten months after Thomas testified in that case, he was called a "snitch" by another inmate who struck him in the face with "a lock in a sock." Id. at 315-316. The force of this blow caused scarring to his face and broke his jaw. Id. at 315. As the result of this prior incident, Thomas expressed concern at trial that he would be labeled a "snitch" and would be attacked again. Id. at 316.

         {¶9} On cross examination, the Defense discussed several false statements that Thomas had made to the grand jury. Id. at 398-407. Thomas admitted that he lied to the grand jury about his involvement in these crimes. Id. at 401. On redirect, he testified, however, that he did not lie to the grand jury about Randle's involvement in these crimes. Id. at 410, 424. He also pointed to the fact that his statements about Randle's involvement before the grand jury were consistent with his statements before the trial court. Id. The Defense also questioned Thomas about his three prior convictions, several false statements he made to the police, his reluctance to testify at trial about Randle's involvement, and the terms of his plea agreement. Id. 385, 386, 394, 409-410.

         {¶10} The State also called several witnesses who connected Randle and Thomas to each other on the day of the incident. Kyle J. Hopkins was one of Thomas's neighbors and testified that he saw Randle and Thomas together on the morning of July 22, 2016. Id. at 445. Angelo Flores then testified that he saw Randle on Cherry Street shortly after Thomas was arrested and that he gave Randle a ride back to Randle's house. Id. at 439, 442. Rogers testified that Randle and Thomas were at her house on July 22, 2016. Id. at 427. The prosecution also introduced a recording of a phone call that Thomas made from jail in which he speaks of being with Randle on July 22, 2016. Id. at 361. The prosecution also called Peggy Romine ("Romine"), who works at the County Corrections Center, to authenticate documents that showed Randle deposited funds into Thomas's commissary account while Thomas was in jail. Id. at 272-273.

         {¶11} On February 6, 2017, the jury found Randle guilty of aggravated robbery in violation of R.C. 2911.01(A)(1) and kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(2). Doc. 98, 99. Randle filed his timely notice of appeal on March 31, 2017. Doc. 127. On appeal, Randle raises the following four assignments of error:

First Assignment of Error
The offenses of aggravated robbery and kidnapping should have merged in this matter.
Second Assignment of Error
In this matter, the State violated an ethical duty to reveal that the indictment in this matter was based on perjured testimony, demonstrate [sic] that the perjury had been remedied before proceeding to trial, and reveal [sic] any promises of immunity regarding such perjury.
Third Assignment of Error
The trial court improperly overruled appellant's motion for a mistrial regarding the State's request for a recess to bolster their witness's testimony.
Fourth Assignment of Error
The jury's decision to convict the appellant was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

         We will consider these assignments of error in the order in which they were ...

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