Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas Case No. CR-15-601492-C
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Rick L. Ferrara
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor BY: Hannah Smith Assistant County
BEFORE: Boyle, P.J., S. Gallagher, J., and Laster Mays, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
J. BOYLE, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Defendant-appellant, Shawn Ladson, appeals his convictions
and sentence. He raises the following assignments of error
for our review:
1. The manifest weight of the evidence did not support
2. The trial court erred in failing to declare a mistrial on
the state's comment that infringed on Appellant's
constitutional right to remain silent at trial.
3. The trial court committed plain error in failing to merge
underlying offenses as part of the same act with the same
animus; and failing to merge firearm specifications as part
of the same criminal transaction.
Finding no merit to his assignments of error, we affirm.
Procedural History and Factual Background
In December 2015, a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury indicted
Ladson and his two codefendants, Michael Townsend, Jr. and
Roscoe Simmons III, for two counts of aggravated murder, in
violation of R.C. 2903.01(A) and (B); one count of murder, in
violation of R.C. 2903.02(B); two counts of aggravated
burglary, in violation of R.C. 2911.11(A)(1) and (2); three
counts of aggravated robbery, in violation of R.C.
2911.01(A)(1) and (3); four counts of felonious assault, in
violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(1) and (2); five counts of
kidnapping, in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(3); and one count
of tampering with evidence, in violation of R.C.
2921.12(A)(1). Ladson was indicted for an additional count of
having weapons while under disability, in violation of R.C.
2923.13(A)(3). With the exception of the count for tampering
with evidence, all of the counts carried one- and three-year
firearm specifications. Additionally, the counts for
aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, felonious assault,
and kidnapping carried notices of prior conviction and repeat
violent offender specifications. The charges arose out of the
fatal shooting of Joshua Freeman, which occurred when three
men broke into Freeman's apartment on July 21, 2015.
Ladson waived his right to a trial by jury for the notice of
prior conviction and repeat violent offender specifications
as well as for the having weapons while under disability
count. The case proceeded to a jury trial, where the state
presented 13 witnesses, including 5 eyewitnesses, each of who
offered slightly varied accounts as to who shot Freeman. We
summarize the following pertinent facts from the evidence
presented at trial.
On July 19, 2015, Freeman and Darren Briscoe attended a car
show with some friends. Freeman recently had come into a
large sum of cash and, earlier that day, had posted a video
on Instagram of himself with the cash. Briscoe testified that
he was not sure of the amount of the money or exactly how
Freeman got the money, but believed it was related to an
At the car show, Freeman gambled and ultimately lost all of
his money. As a result, Freeman and Briscoe decided to leave
the car show around 7:30 p.m. and went back to the
two-bedroom apartment they shared on Wheelock Avenue in
Cleveland. Latia Stradford, Briscoe's girlfriend, met the
men at their apartment, and she and Briscoe eventually went
to his room and fell asleep. Lateasa Byrd, Freeman's
girlfriend and mother of his child, also came over to the
apartment with their daughter and spent the night.
Around 2:00 a.m., Byrd and Freeman awoke to the sound of
commotion coming from inside the apartment. When Freeman
opened the bedroom door to investigate the noise, a man stood
in the doorway pointing a gun at Freeman. The man, who was
eventually identified as Townsend, entered the room. Townsend
began arguing with Freeman and demanded to know where the
cash was that Freeman showed on Instagram earlier in the day.
After Freeman denied having the money, Townsend threatened to
kill the couple's daughter if Freeman did not give him
At the same time, both Briscoe and Stradford, who were asleep
in the other bedroom, woke up when two men kicked in
Briscoe's bedroom door and ordered Briscoe to get on the
ground. The men demanded to know where the money was and
threatened him with a gun and a crowbar. At one point, one of
the men reached over and grabbed two of Briscoe's
designer belts, which Briscoe estimated to be worth over a
few hundred dollars a piece. After Briscoe told the men that
there was no money in the apartment, both left the bedroom
for a moment. One of the men then returned and ordered
Briscoe to crawl to Freeman's bedroom.
When the two men and Briscoe entered Freeman's bedroom,
the men continued threatening Freeman. At some point during
the argument, one of the men shot Freeman. After the shot
went off, all three men ran from the apartment.
Byrd immediately called 911, while Briscoe attempted to help
Freeman. Soon after, police arrived on the scene. Upon
arrival, officers secured the area and began interviewing
Briscoe and Stradford. Paramedics tended to Freeman and took
him to Metro Hospital. Byrd accompanied Freeman to the
hospital and was interviewed by police there. Freeman
eventually died of a single gunshot wound to his lower
abdomen after suffering extreme blood loss and organ failure.
Police collected evidence, swabbing doorknobs and other
objects in the apartment for DNA, taking pictures of the
apartment, both inside and outside, and collecting evidence,
such as a single cartridge case and bloodied clothing from
Freeman's bedroom. Police also took pictures of the
damage to the apartment's outside door, which showed
signs of a forcible entry.
Later that day, police interviewed Briscoe and Stradford
again at police headquarters, who described the events of
that night as well as the men who entered the apartment.
Based on that information, police obtained a warrant for
On the evening of July 20, 2015, Roscoe Simmons turned
himself into police, confessing that he was one of the men
who broke into Freeman's apartment. The next day,
Townsend also turned himself into police. During their
initial interviews with police, neither Townsend nor Simmons
identified the third suspect.
Police eventually received information identifying Ladson as
the third suspect and obtained a warrant for him on July 29,
2015. Ladson, however, was not apprehended and arrested until
November 20, 2015.
After the state rested its case, Ladson moved for a Crim.R.
29 dismissal, which the court denied. The defense then
presented no witnesses and rested its case. Ladson renewed
his Crim.R. 29 motion, which the court denied. Ladson
additionally moved for a mistrial based on comments made
during the state's closing argument, but the court denied
On April 28, 2017, the jury found Ladson guilty of one count
of aggravated murder; one count of murder; two counts of
aggravated burglary; three counts of aggravated robbery; five
counts of kidnapping, all of which carried one- and
three-year firearm specifications. The court found Ladson
guilty of the notice of prior conviction and repeat violent
offender specifications for the counts of aggravated
burglary, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping. Additionally,
the jury found Ladson guilty of one count of tampering with
At sentencing, the trial court found that the aggravated
murder count merged with the counts for murder and one count
for kidnapping; the counts for aggravated burglary merged;
and the remaining four counts for kidnapping merged with the
aggravated robbery counts. The state elected to sentence
Ladson for the count for aggravated murder and aggravated
burglary and two counts of aggravated robbery.
The trial court sentenced Ladson as follows: 25 years to life
for aggravated murder with one- and three-year firearm
specifications from the merged count for murder; 11 years for
aggravated burglary with one- and three-year firearm
specifications; and 11 years for the aggravated-robbery
counts with one- and three-year firearm specifications. ...