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State v. Lynch

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

March 22, 2018

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
CORNELIUS LYNCH DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-14-585501-A

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Mark Stanton Cuyahoga County Public Defender BY: Jeffrey Gamso Assistant Public Defender

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor BY: Edward R. Fadel Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

          BEFORE: Celebrezze, J., Keough, P.J., and Jones, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          FRANK D. CELEBREZZE, JR, JUDGE

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Cornelius Lynch ("Lynch"), brings this appeal challenging his convictions for rape and kidnapping. Specifically, Lynch argues that the trial court erred by denying his motions to dismiss the indictment based on preindictment delay, the state engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, and that the charges should have been dismissed based on double jeopardy grounds. After a thorough review of the record and law, this court affirms.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         {¶2} The instant appeal arose from an incident that occurred between Lynch and his girlfriend's daughter, M.H. At the time of the incident, M.H. was 12 years old, and Lynch had been living with his girlfriend, S.P., and M.H. for a few years. M.H. alleged that Lynch sexually assaulted her on May 26, 1994. M.H. reported the incident to her mother the next morning, and M.H. went to the hospital where a rape kit examination was performed. M.H. spoke with hospital staff and the police about the incident, and she indicated that Lynch was her assailant. Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services ("CCDCFS") investigators also interviewed M.H. and Lynch. Approximately two weeks later, M.H. recanted her allegations against Lynch.

         {¶3} Although M.H. recanted her allegations, her rape kit was submitted to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation ("BCI") for DNA testing in August 2012. DNA testing established that Lynch could not be excluded as the source of semen on the vaginal swab from the rape kit.

         {¶4} After learning of the DNA match, investigators reinterviewed M.H. and S.P. M.H. informed the investigators that Lynch assaulted her in May 1994.

         {¶5} On May 15, 2014, in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-14-585501-A, the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury returned a three-count indictment charging Lynch with (1) rape, a first-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b), with a furthermore specification alleging that Lynch purposely compelled the victim to submit by force or threat of force, (2) rape, a first-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b), and (3) kidnapping, a first-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(4). Count 1 alleged that Lynch engaged in vaginal intercourse with M.H., and Count 2 alleged that Lynch engaged in cunnilingus with M.H. Lynch was arraigned on May 30, 2014. He pled not guilty to the indictment. Shortly after Lynch was indicted, S.P. died.

         {¶6} Lynch's counsel filed a motion to withdraw on July 2, 2014. The trial court granted counsel's motion, and the court assigned a new attorney to represent Lynch on July 9, 2014.

         {¶7} On October 31, 2014, Lynch's counsel filed motions for independent DNA analysis and to dismiss the indictment based on preindictment delay. Lynch's counsel filed a supplemental motion to dismiss based on preindictment delay on November 17, 2014. On February 12, 2015, the trial court denied defense counsel's motion to dismiss.

         {¶8} On August 5, 2015, Lynch's counsel filed a motion for reconsideration of the motion to dismiss for preindictment delay. The trial court denied defense counsel's motion for reconsideration on October 2, 2015.

         {¶9} On February 2, 2016, Lynch's counsel filed a second supplemental motion to dismiss based on preindictment delay. On February 12, 2016, the trial court denied defense counsel's motion to dismiss.

         {¶10} A jury trial commenced on March 7, 2016. On March 10, 2016, the trial court declared a mistrial based on an issue that arose with one of the 12 jurors. On March 11, 2016, Lynch's second attorney filed a motion to withdraw as counsel. The trial court granted counsel's motion, and the court assigned a new attorney to represent Lynch on March 17, 2016.

         {¶11} On September 9, 2016, Lynch's counsel filed a motion to reconsider the defense's previous motions to dismiss based on preindictment delay. After holding a hearing, the trial court denied the motion to reconsider on September 13, 2016.

         {¶12} A second jury trial commenced on September 15, 2016. At the close of trial, the jury found Lynch guilty on all three counts on September 20, 2016. The trial court referred Lynch to the probation department for a presentence investigation report and set the matter for sentencing.

         {¶13} The trial court held a sentencing hearing on October 20, 2016. The trial court merged Counts 1 and 3 for sentencing purposes. The state elected to sentence Lynch on Count 1. The trial court imposed a prison term of 15 years to life on Count 1, and a prison term of 15 years to life on Count 2. The trial court ordered the counts to run concurrently. The trial court found Lynch to be a sexually oriented offender and reviewed his reporting requirements.

         {¶14} On November 1, 2016, Lynch filed the instant appeal challenging his convictions. He assigns four errors for review, which we will address out of order for ease of discussion:

I. [Lynch's] rights to due process and a fair trial were violated when the trial court denied his motion to dismiss for pre-indictment delay and then denied his motion to reconsider that ruling.
II. Prosecutorial misconduct encouraging the jury to convict based on sympathy for M.H. violated [Lynch's] constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process and to be convicted based only on the evidence against him.
III. Counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance when he failed to object to the prosecutor's improper argument as set forth in the [s]econd [assignment of [e]rror.
IV. Because there was no manifest necessity for the trial court to grant a mistrial, the constitutional protection against being twice put in jeopardy for the same offense required that the charges against [Lynch] be dismissed.

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Preindictment Delay

         {¶15} In his first assignment of error, Lynch argues that the trial court erred by denying his motions to dismiss the indictment based on preindictment delay.

         {¶16} The statute of limitations for a criminal offense is a defendant's primary protection against overly stale criminal charges. U.S. v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 322, 92 S.Ct. 455, 30 L.Ed.2d 468 (1971). However, in some circumstances, the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides limited protection against preindictment delay. U.S. v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783, 97 S.Ct. 2044, 52 L.Ed.2d 752 (1977). The Ohio Supreme Court has held that "[a]n unjustifiable delay between the commission of an offense and a defendant's indictment therefor[e], which results in actual prejudice to the defendant, is a violation of the right to due process of law." State v. Luck, 15 Ohio St.3d 150, 472 N.E.2d 1097 (1984), paragraph two of the syllabus.

         {¶17} The Ohio Supreme Court recently reaffirmed a two-part, burden-shifting test to determine whether preindictment delay constitutes a due process violation. State v. Jones,148 Ohio St.3d 167, 2016-Ohio-5105, 69 N.E.3d 688, ¶ 13 (" Jones I "). First, the burden is on the defendant to present evidence of actual prejudice; once a defendant does so, the burden then shifts to the state to produce evidence of a justifiable reason for the delay. Id. at ¶ 13, citing State v. Whiting,84 Ohio St.3d 215, 217, 702 N.E.2d 1199 (1998). "A court must determine whether the defendant has established actual prejudice to his ability to defend himself before independently determining whether the state met its burden of establishing a ...


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