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State v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Stark

June 3, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
AULETTI DALANE BROWN, JR. Defendant-Appellant

          CHARACTER OF PROCEEDING: Criminal appeal from the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, Case No.2017CR2362

          For Plaintiff-Appellee JOHN D. FERRERO StarkCounty Prosecutor BY: MICHAEL BICKIS

          For Defendant-Appellant GEORGE URBAN

          JUDGES: Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. William B. Hoffman, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.

          OPINION

          GWIN, P. J.

         {¶1} Appellant Auletti Dalane Brown, Jr. ["Brown"] appeals his conviction and sentence after a jury trial in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶2} Y.W.'s and his fiancée M.L. lived on Ingram Avenue, SW, Canton, Stark County, Ohio, with her four children, including a three-year-old son that she had with Y.W. M.L. is Brown's cousin.

         {¶3} On December 10, 2017, around seven o'clock in the evening, Y.W. and M. L. were at home with their children, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. Y.W. left and walked to Maggiore's Drive-thru to purchase alcohol. At approximately the same time, Brown left his home on Maryland Avenue, SW to go to Maggiore's Drive-thru to purchase beer and cigarettes. Brown testified that when he left home, he put his knife in his pants pocket because he always carried a knife with him when he left his house.

         {¶4} Brown and Y.W. got into a verbal and physical altercation outside the Maggiore's drive thru on Dueber and 9th Street in Canton, Ohio. Y.W. pushed Brown to the ground and accused Brown of slashing his car tires. Brown called 9-1-1, told the dispatcher never mind and hung up. Both left the area and walked to their respective homes, which were within blocks of each other. Surveillance cameras in the area captured portions of this altercation.

         {¶5} M. L. testified that Brown had been told to stay away from their home "because his drinking leads to violence." 1T. at 187[1]. M.L. testified when Y.W. returned from the drive thru he was angry. Y.W. told her that he had pushed Brown down and that if Brown was not her cousin he would have really punched on him. 1T.at 194. M.L. testified that she never heard a knock on the door that day, but heard Brown outside hollering and screaming, "Mother fucker." 1T.at 208; 3T. at 535. M.L. testified that she saw Y.W. head for the door and she told him not to go, but Y.W. said, "I'm tired of him." M.L. testified that Brown came up the steps with his hands in his pockets. Y.W. took a swing at Brown and missed. She then saw Y.W. fall to the ground. M.L. testified that when Y.W. walked back up the steps, he was bleeding like a faucet and said, "He stabbed me Bae" and fell. 1T. at 197. Then she heard Brown say "Yeah, Nigga" and then Brown calmly walked away.

         {¶6} On his way home, Brown hid the knife in the bushes by his neighbor's house. Officers responding to Brown's 9-1-1 call, saw Brown, and observed that he fit the physical description of Y.W.'s assailant. The officers tried to talk with Brown, but Brown put his head down and ran. The officers eventually cornered Brown and took him into custody. The arresting officers took photos of Brown's neck and abdomen and did not observe any physical injuries to his neck. When Brown was initially questioned by the police he claimed he did not know Y.W. but later admitted he went to the house to speak with "Yoshie" and that he stabbed Y.W. claiming it was in self-defense. 3T. at 627. He also told the detectives, "No one gets over on Auletti Brown." At trial Brown testified that he was being strangled when he stabbed Y.W.

         {¶7} Dr. Renee Robinson, a forensic pathologist at the Stark County Coroner's Office, performed the autopsy on Y.W. Dr. Robinson testified that she observed defensive wounds on Y.W.'s forearms. She stated that it would have been difficult for a person to sustain the injuries unless they were in a defensive position. She testified that the puncture wound to Y.W.'s' heart was the result of a sharp force to Y.W.'s arm and chest in a single action and consistent with the knife in evidence. 3T. at 471 -476. She testified that the puncture to Y.W.'s heart resulted in excessive bleeding and that he lost approximately 2 liters of blood as the result. Dr. Robinson testified that Y.W. died because of a sharp force injury to the chest.

         {¶8} At trial, Brown represented himself, called witnesses and testified on his own behalf. Throughout the proceedings, Brown maintained that he acted in self-defense. After the presentation of evidence, Brown requested and was granted a jury instruction on self-defense.

         {¶9} The jury found Brown guilty of murder and felonious assault. The court found Brown guilty of the Repeat Violent Offender Specification. The state agreed that the felonious assault conviction merged into the murder conviction and elected for sentencing on the murder charge.

         {¶10} The court imposed a 15 year to life sentence of the murder conviction and a 10-year sentence for the repeat violent offender to run consecutively for an aggregate sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

         Assignments of Error

         {¶11} Brown, through counsel, raises two Assignments of Error, {¶12} "I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING APPELLANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS.

         {¶13} "II. APPELLANTS CONVICTIONS WERE AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE."

          I.

         {¶14} In his First Assignment of Error, Brown contends that the trial court erred by overruling his motion to suppress Brown's statement to the police. Subsumed within this generalized objection are three challenges to the trial court ruling. Specifically, Brown contends that: (1). Officers continued to question him after he asked for an attorney; (2) the Officers failed to re-advise Brown of his Miranda rights after a three minute break in questioning and (3) Brown did not voluntarily waive his Miranda rights.

         STANDARD OF APPELLATE REVIEW

         {¶15} Appellate review of a motion to suppress presents a mixed question of law and fact. State v. Burnside, 100 Ohio St.3d 152, 154-155, 2003-Ohio-5372, 797 N.E.2d 71, ¶ 8. When ruling on a motion to suppress, the trial court assumes the role of trier of fact and is in the best position to resolve questions of fact and to evaluate witness credibility. See State v. Dunlap, 73 Ohio St.3d 308, 314, 1995-Ohio-243, 652 N.E.2d 988; State v. Fanning, 1 Ohio St.3d 19, 20, 437 N.E.2d 583 (1982). Accordingly, a reviewing court must defer to the trial court's factual findings if competent, credible evidence exists to support those findings. See Burnside, supra; Dunlap, supra; State v. Long, 127 Ohio App.3d 328, 332, 713 N.E.2d 1(4th Dist.1998); State v. Medcalf, 111 Ohio App.3d 142, 675 N.E.2d 1268 (4th Dist.1996). However, once this Court has accepted those facts as true, it must independently determine as a matter of law whether the trial court met the applicable legal standard. See Burnside, supra, citing State v. McNamara, 124 Ohio App.3d 706, 707 N.E.2d 539(4th Dist. 1997); See, generally, United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 122 S.Ct. 744, 151 L.Ed.2d 740(2002); Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 911(1996). That is, the application of the law to the trial court's findings of fact is subject to a de novo standard of review Ornelas, supra. Moreover, due weight should be given "to inferences drawn from those facts by resident judges and local law enforcement officers." Ornelas, supra at 698, 116 S.Ct. at 1663.

         ISSUES FOR APPEAL.

         A. Whether Brown invoked his right to counsel during custodial interrogation by Detective George.

         {¶16} Brown first contends that all the statements he made to the Canton police detectives while in custody on December 10, 2017 should have been suppressed, because his Fifth Amendment right to counsel during custodial interrogation, see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 474, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), was violated when Canton police interrogated him after he had invoked his right to counsel. A video of Brown's interview with the detectives was played during the hearing on Brown's Motion to Suppress and during his jury trial. State's Exhibit 1[2]

         {¶17} If a suspect in custody requests counsel, "interrogation must cease until an attorney is present." Id. Moreover,

When an accused has invoked his right to have counsel present during custodial interrogation, a valid waiver of that right cannot be established by showing only that he responded to further police-initiated custodial interrogation even if he has been advised of his rights. * * * [A]n accused, * * * having expressed his desire to deal with the police only through counsel, is not subject to further interrogation by the authorities until counsel has been made available to him, unless the accused himself initiates further communication, exchanges, or conversations with the police.

Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 484-485, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378 (1981)(Footnote omitted.); State v. Trench, Oh. Sup. No. 2016-0899, 2018-Ohio-5205 (Dec. 26, 2018), ¶25.

         {¶18} However, "the suspect must unambiguously request counsel." (Emphasis added.) Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452, 459, 114 S.Ct. 2350, 129 L.Ed.2d 362 (1994). "If the suspect's statement is not an unambiguous or unequivocal request for counsel, the officers have no obligation to stop questioning him." Id. at 461-462, 114 S.Ct. 2350. The suspect "must articulate his desire to have counsel present sufficiently clearly that a reasonable police officer in the circumstances would understand the statement to be a request for an attorney." Id. at 459, 114 S.Ct. 2350, 129 L.Ed.2d 362. Moreover, if the suspect does request counsel, police may still interrogate him if-but only if-he initiates a conversation. Edwards at 485, 101 S.Ct. 1880, 68 L.Ed.2d 378; Trench, ¶756.

         1. December 10, 2017 Brown is taken into custody.

         {¶19} Detective George testified that he knew that Brown had a lengthy criminal history and, that Brown was familiar with the criminal justice system. Detectives George and Walker placed Brown in an interview room with video and audio recording capabilities.

         {¶20} Brown was secured and patted down for weapons and remained in his street clothing. Prior to the interview, Brown's handcuffs were removed, and, he was offered something to drink. SH. at 14-15.

         {¶21} Brown asked Detective George what charges had been filed against him. Brown further let the officers know that he was familiar with the system and his constitutional rights stating, "I'm not the average stupid fucker-keep it gangster, keep it real"; "I got a lawyer, trust me, it ain't even like that."

         {¶22} Detective Walker gave Brown a Miranda warning. S.H. at 23. Brown was then asked if he understood what had been read to him, to which he responded, "yes sir." He was asked if he had any questions about the Miranda warning to which he responded "no." He was then asked to read aloud a section of the warning prior to questioning. Brown read the following statement, "I have had the above Constitutional Rights read to me and I fully understand them and I do hereby waive my rights." Brown said, "I know what it means" and signed a written waiver of rights form. State's Exhibit 2. Brown acknowledges that he was read his Miranda right, understood his rights and signed a written waiver of Miranda rights form. [Appellant's Brief at 7-8].

         2. Brown Contends That He Invokes His Right to Counsel {¶23} At 10:19:45 in the video, the following exchange took place between Det. George and Brown:

Brown: What happens if do this- what happens if I say-Well-Get me a lawyer?
Sgt. George: You want lawyer?
Brown: I can call my lawyer right now.
Sgt. George: Do you want a lawyer-
Brown: Yeah
Sgt. George: or do you want to talk with ...

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