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State v. Vance

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Jackson

March 22, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LEWIS VANCE, Defendant-Appellant.

         CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM COMMON PLEAS COURT

          Angela Miller, Jupiter, Florida, for appellant. [1]

          Michael DeWine, Ohio Attorney General, and Christopher L. Kinsler, Assistant Attorney General, Columbus, Ohio, for appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          PETER B. ABELE, JUDGE.

         {¶ 1} This is an appeal from a Jackson County Common Pleas Court judgment of conviction and sentence. Lewis Vance, defendant below and appellant herein, assigns the following errors for review:

FIRST ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT REFUSED TO HOLD A HEARING OR REVIEW APPELLANT VANCE'S MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL. FIFTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION; ARTICLE I, SECTION 10 OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION; CRIM.R. 33"
SECOND ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY FAILING TO PROPERLY NOTIFY APPELLANT VANCE THAT HE WAS SUBJECT TO A DISCRETIONARY TERM OF UP TO THREE YEARS OF POST-RELEASE CONTROL AT THE SENTENCING HEARING. ADDITIONALLY, ANY NOTIFICATION REGARDING POST-RELEASE CONTROL WAS OMITTED FROM THE SENTENCING ENTRY. THESE FAILURES VIOLATED VANCE'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AS GUARANTEED BY THE FIFTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE I, SECTION 10 OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION."
THIRD ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE SENTENCE IMPOSED BY THE TRIAL COURT SHOULD BE REVERSED AND REMANDED AS IT DOES NOT COMPORT WITH THE PURPOSES OF FELONY SENTENCING. FIFTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION; ARTICLE I, SECTION 10 OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION; RC. 2929.11."
FOURTH ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR:
"THE TRIAL COURT FAILED TO SPECIFY ITS CONSECUTIVE SENTENCING FINDINGS IN ITS JUDGMENT ENTRY. RC. 2929.14(C)(4)."

         {¶ 2} On June 23, 2014, a Jackson County Grand Jury returned an indictment that charged appellant with crimes alleged to have been committed against Patrick Morgan, including aggravated murder in violation of RC. 2903.01(D), murder in violation of RC. 2903.02(A), murder in violation of RC. 2903.02(B), felonious assault in violation of RC. 2903.11(A)(1), and felonious assault in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(2). The indictment also included crimes alleged to have been committed against Rachel Canode and her daughter M.C., including kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(4), abduction in violation of R.C. 2905.02(A)(2), attempted rape in violation of R.C. 2923.02(A)/2907.02(A)(2), tampering with evidence in violation of R.C. 29021.12(A), abduction in violation of R.C. 2905.02(A)(2), and kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(B)(2). The trial court appointed counsel and appellant entered not guilty pleas to all charges.

         {¶ 3} Counsel filed various motions and, inter alia, requested a competency evaluation. The trial court granted the request. At the November 21, 2014 competency hearing, both parties stipulated to the forensic report and the court later determined appellant to be competent to stand trial.

         {¶ 4} On March 30, 2015, appellant's trial counsel requested leave to change appellant's plea to not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) and an evaluation, along with a third competency evaluation. The trial court granted appellant's request for leave to change his plea and ordered an evaluation at Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare. However, on June 16, 2015, the court ordered the evaluation to occur at Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare. The court also denied the request for the third competency evaluation.

         {¶ 5} On February 19, 2016, appellant sent a pro se letter to the trial court judge and indicated that he wished to have different counsel. At this juncture, counsel also requested yet another competency evaluation, but the trial court indicated that both prior evaluations determined appellant's competency, as set forth in R.C. 2945.37(G), and that appellant raised no additional facts or argument as to why a third competency evaluation was necessary. Thus, the court denied the motion.

         {¶ 6} On July 14, 2016, the trial court issued a pretrial order and indicated that it had received additional unsolicited correspondence from appellant, including: (1) a June 27, 2016 letter, (2) a June 27, 2016 voluntary statement, (3) a June 24, 2016 voluntary statement, and (4) a June 19, 2016 motion for dismissal and a list of witnesses. Because appellant had counsel, the court did not file any of the documents, but instructed counsel to file, within 14 days, any necessary motion regarding the issues that appellant raised in the documents. In a separate order, the court indicated that it had received defendant's pro se motion for acquittal, but again stated that it would not consider appellant's pro se motion because counsel represented appellant.

         {¶ 7} The trial court held a four day trial beginning October 20, 2016. The first witness, William Ghearing, stated that he was driving toward Wellston, Ohio at 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. on November 29, 2013 when appellant's pick-up truck struck him head-on. When Ghearing approached appellant, appellant told him "You never seen me. You never seen me at all, and don't know who I am." Shortly thereafter, appellant disappeared.

         {¶ 8} Chillicothe Police Officer Morgan Music testified that at the time of the accident, he worked for the Coalton Police Department. After Officer Music arrived at the crash site, he noticed a body in the truck bed. Once he secured the scene, Officer Music also learned that a man had been observed walking about a quarter mile away. Officer Music assisted in detaining that man (appellant), who displayed blood on his face, pants and jacket. Jackson County Sheriffs Deputy Urias Hall later visited the hospital to see appellant and testified that he smelled of alcohol, but appeared to be oriented.

         {¶ 9} Officers eventually learned that appellant's truck actually belonged to Patrick Morgan. Also, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Special Agent Bryan White testified about processing the vehicle crash site, and stated that the victim's (Morgan's) pants and underwear were found around his knees, and that the victim had only one shoe.

         {¶ 10} Nineteen-year-old Dustin Jones testified that on the night in question, appellant came to his parents' neighboring home and asked him to help load a deer into a truck. Jones assisted, but observed that the object was not a deer but rather a human body that he recognized as the person who had been staying with appellant. Appellant then threatened Jones and his family with harm if he did not help. Jones ...


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