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State v. Ramirez

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Richland

February 14, 2018

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
CHRISTEN RAMIREZ Defendant-Appellant

         Appeal from the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, Case No's. 2015CR0755, 2015CR0700

          For Plaintiff-Appellee GARY BISHOP Prosecuting Attorney Richland County, Ohio By: JOSEPH C. SNYDER Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

          For Defendant-Appellant JEFFREY P. UHRICH Law Office of Jeffrey P. Uhrich

          Hon. John W. Wise, P.J., Hon. W. Scott Gwin, J., Hon. William B. Hoffman, J.

          OPINION

          Hoffman, J.

         {¶1} Appellant Christen Ramirez appeals the judgment entered by the Richland County Common Pleas Court convicting him of aggravated murder (R.C. 2903.01(B), four counts of kidnapping (R.C. 2905.01), two counts of aggravated burglary (R.C. 2911.11), robbery (R.C. 2911.02), tampering with evidence (R.C. 2921.12), two counts of aggravated robbery (R.C. 2911.01), and injuring animals (R.C. 959.92), with firearm and repeat violent offender specifications, and sentencing him to an aggregate term of 112 years incarceration to be served consecutively to a term of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Appellee is the state of Ohio.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE

         {¶2} In the early morning hours of June 24, 2015, Uvon Burns was asleep in her bedroom when she awoke to a man pointing a gun at her, demanding drugs and money. When her dog moved to protect her, the intruder shot the dog. She had no drugs, but tossed her purse at him which contained her tip money from bartending at the American Legion the night before. He picked up the purse and ran.

         {¶3} Burns discovered her boyfriend, Jason O'Neal, had climbed into bed with her after she fell asleep. He laid still so the intruder would not see him. He heard the intruder ask for weed and money. He saw the silhouette of a man in a grey hoodie drawn tight, holding a gun. He noted a tattoo on the intruder's hand, and a pair of Nike boots he had earlier seen on Appellant. He was later able to identify Appellant by his voice as well as the tattoo and boots.

         {¶4} Burns and O'Neal called the police and discovered the intruder gained entry into the home by kicking the panel out of the front door. The dog survived after receiving emergency veterinary care.

         {¶5} At two o'clock that morning, Appellant's co-defendant Marcelluis Luckie woke up his girlfriend, Andrea McDowell, to tell her Burns had been robbed and her dog had been shot. McDowell and Burns were coworkers and friends. Luckie claimed he heard about the incident from his friend George Kelly. He insisted they check on Burns the next morning, and they drove to Burns' house. Luckie told Burns and O'Neal he was sorry about their dog. O'Neal found it strange Luckie knew about the dog because the incident was not yet public knowledge.

         {¶6} On June 25, 2015, Christshanda Webb was at the home of her brother, Myron Webb, waiting for a cable service installer to arrive. She heard a knock on the back door. She checked the front of the house for a cable van, but no one was there. Others in the house checked the rear door and found Appellant attempting to force his way into the house. When he noticed people in the house, he ran. Christhanda walked up the street in the direction Appellant was headed. She saw Luckie approach driving a black Pontiac, and Appellant jumped on the hood.

         {¶7} Shamille Chapman and her baby were asleep on the couch on June 26, 2015, when she awoke to find Appellant and Luckie standing over her, asking for money and drugs. Luckie held a gun, and Appellant held a crowbar. Luckie was wearing a black Ohio State hoodie, a mask, gloves, and Hello Kitty glasses. Appellant was dressed in all black. Appellant took electronics from the house and put them in bags. The men asked her to have her son come downstairs, and they held him at gunpoint with Chapman. The men demanded she call her boyfriend, Myron Webb, to ask him to come home, and threatened her if she warned him something was amiss. She called Webb and asked him to come home. The men continued to ransack the house while waiting for Webb to arrive, asking her to call Webb multiple times. Appellant and Luckie tied up Chapman's son with t-shirts and an electrical cord.

         {¶8} When Webb arrived home, the men ordered him to the ground. They told Webb they heard he had "bricks." Webb responded he did not have drugs, but gave them his money. Unhappy with what they had received, the men planned to stay all night and have Webb withdraw money from the bank for them the next morning. They told Webb they would put a pillowcase over his head and take the baby with them. Webb asked them not to involve his family. When they ordered Webb to walk toward the kitchen, Webb charged the men. Chapman grabbed the baby and ran into the kitchen where her son was tied up. She got outside with her son and the baby and screamed for the neighbors to call 911.

         {¶9} After seeing Appellant and Luckie run away, Chapman went back into the house where she found Webb rolling around on the ground, bleeding from stab wounds to his head, neck, back, and upper arms. He was transported to the hospital where he died the following day. The medical examiner found twenty-five stab wounds on Webb.

         {¶10} During the afternoon of June 26, 2015, O'Neal saw Appellant with a group of people gathered outside a friend's house. During a conversation, O'Neal recognized Appellant's voice from the break-in on June 24, 2015. O'Neal punched Appellant and choked him. After he was beaten by O'Neal, Appellant called his grandfather and told him to get rid of bullets and a pair of "Jordans" which were at his house. Appellant then called Luckie and told him he got beat up over shooting O'Neal's dog. Appellant changed his shoes at his house and his clothes at his mother's house before going to the hospital, where he claimed his injuries were the result of a fall from a tree.

         {¶11} Chapman's neighbors reported seeing Appellant and Luckie flee the scene of the attack on Webb in a black Pontiac Grand Prix. When police went to Appellant's house to question witnesses, they found a black Pontiac which they identified as the vehicle they were looking for in connection with Webb's murder. Police could see blood on the steering wheel and a tire iron in the car. They found the vehicle was registered to McDowell. Blood was later discovered on the driver's side door, the steering wheel, and the center console lid. DNA testing from the steering wheel cover showed a DNA mixture including Webb and Appellant. Webb's blood was also found under the passenger door handle and at two locations on the driver's seat.

         {¶12} Appellant was indicted in case number 2015-CR-0700 with aggravated burglary, two counts of aggravated robbery, and one count of injuring animals, with firearm specifications, for the events of June 24, 2015. He was indicted in case number 2015-CR-0755 on two counts aggravated murder, four counts kidnapping, aggravated burglary, robbery, and tampering with evidence with firearm and repeat violent offender specifications for the events of June 25, 2015. The indictments were consolidated for trial, and consolidated with the charges against co-defendant Luckie for trial. The case proceeded to jury trial. Appellant was convicted of all counts except one of the two counts of aggravated murder. He was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment without possibility of parole on the aggravated murder conviction, and an aggregate of 112 years incarceration on the remaining charges, to be served consecutively. From the judgments of conviction and sentence Appellant prosecutes this appeal, assigning as error:

         "I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY JOINING THE SEPARATE OFFENSES CHARGED IN TWO SEPARATE CASES, NAMELY STATE V. RAMIREZ, CASE NO. 2015 CR 0700 AND STATE V. RAMIREZ, CASE NO 2015 CR 0755, IN ONE TRIAL.

         "II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT JOINED DEFENDANT RAMIREZ'S CASES WITH DEFENDANT LUCKIE'S CASES IN ONE TRIAL.

         "III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED THE MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL UNDER BRUTON V. UNITED STATES (1968), 391 U.S. 123.

         "IV. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT PERMITTED (OVER OBJECTION) IN COURT IDENTIFICATION FROM CERTAIN PROSECUTION WITNESSES OF DEFENDANT RAMIREZ AS THE PERPETRATOR OF THE CRIMES CHARGED.

         "V. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE OBTAINED FROM A VEHICLE (1999 BLACK PONTIAC GRAND PRIX) PURSUANT TO IMPROPERLY ISSUED OR INVALID SEARCH WARRANTS.

         "VI. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT FAILED TO INSTRUCT THE JURY ON FACTORS TO CONSIDER REGARDING EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY AS PROPOSED BY DEFENDANT RAMIREZ."

         I.

         {¶13} Appellant argues the court erred in joining his two separate indictments into one trial. The State moved for joinder of offenses and defendants. Appellant objected to joinder, and the trial court held a hearing on the motion. Following the hearing, the court ruled as follows:

This matter came before the Court upon the motion of the State of Ohio to consolidate all of the above cases for one jury trial. The Court finds that Defendant Marcellus [sic] Luckie and Defendant Christian [sic] Ramirez have each been indicted for the same criminal activity as co-defendants. The criminal activity that each defendant has been indicted with relates to a home invasion type of robbery and burglary that occurred on June 23, 2015 and another similar type of home invasion type of robbery and burglary that occurred on June 26, 2015. In the second offense the State of Ohio alleges that the defendants while acting together murdered Myron Webb. The State contends that all of these offenses were committed as a part of a course of criminal conduct by those defendants while they were acting together.
Based on the arguments of the parties the Court believes that all of these offenses should be consolidated for one trial. Defendant Ramirez, through counsel, has raised the issue that a single statement made by Defendant Luckie to a witness could be ...

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