Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Criminal Appeal from the Parma Municipal Court Case No. 17
Michael D. Pokorny, Parma Heights Director of Law, and Mark
A. Schneider, Parma Heights Prosecuting Attorney, for
Christopher F. Brooks, pro se.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
A. GALLAGHER, J.
1} On the morning of November 30, 2017, a Parma
Heights police officer observed pro se defendant-appellant
Christopher Brooks fail to stop at a stop sign as required by
R.C. 4511.43. Following a traffic stop, the officer issued
Brooks a citation. The matter proceeded to a bench trial
where the city called the officer to testify. Brooks, the
only other witness who testified, disputed the officer's
account. The trial court found Brooks guilty and imposed a
fine of $85 and ordered court costs be paid. Brooks now
appeals, asserting five assignments of error:
1. The trial court erred by misinterpreting and/or
misapplying R.C. 451143.
2. The trial court erred by disregarding the plain and common
sense meaning of the notes contained on [sic] the Complete
Traffic Citation issued on November 30, 2017 and by issuing
the Final Order notwithstanding the evidence in the record
that Appellant did, in fact, stop at the intersection of
Pearl Road and Parma Park Boulevard.
3. The trial court erred by disregarding, and/or prohibited
[sic] Appellant from introducing evidence of, or the
cross-examination of the State's sole witness about, the
improper issuance of the traffic citation on November 30,
2017 and the improper stop leading to the same.
4. The trial court erred in denying Appellant the ability to
5. The trial court erred by issuing the Final Order in
contravention to [sic] the manifest weight of the evidence.
reasons that follow we affirm.
and Procedural Background
2} During his testimony at trial, the police officer
provided his account of the incident. He explained that he
was observing traffic from a bank parking lot at the
intersection of Pearl Road and Parma Park Boulevard in Parma
Heights, Ohio. Specifically, the officer was parked parallel
with Pearl Road and facing Parma Park Boulevard. He explained
that from this vantage point he had an unobstructed view of
the stop sign on Parma Park Boulevard and could see back down
Parma Park Boulevard the distance of approximately two car
lengths from the stop sign.
3} The officer testified "I was on patrol in
that parking lot specifically to watch the stop sign at Parma
Park Boulevard and Pearl Road. There is one vehicle which
stopped at the stop sign, when that vehicle went through
[Brooks] proceeded directly behind it, did not stop at the
stop sign." While the officer admitted that from his
vantage point he was not able to see the stop line painted on
the roadway, he explained that stop lines are "usually
immediately just before the stop sign," and further
confirmed that Brooks' vehicle did not "stop at the
stop sign where it's supposed to."
4} During the officer's cross-examination,
Brooks inquired as to notes that the officer recorded on the
citation. Specifically, Brooks asked what the officer meant
when he noted that Brooks "piggybacked" off of the
car in front of him.
5} The officer explained that term was a shorthand
description of Brooks' observed behavior at the
"piggyback" is a term I use personally when I'm
writing my notes. It means that when [vehicle number one]
stops for a stop sign and there's traffic behind that
vehicle, obviously they also have to stop * * * when the
vehicle, vehicle number one goes through the stop sign the
vehicles behind them follow it straight out.
officer further explained, "[b]ecause I wrote the term
'piggybacking,' I'm going to say it was pretty
much continuous that Mr. Brooks just continued to follow
straight through the stop sign."
6} Brooks testified on his own behalf and, during
his narrative testimony, he stated that he stopped twice on
Parma Park Boulevard as he approached the stop sign, which
was consistent with the officer's testimony to that
point. Brooks' testimony, however, diverged from the
officer's as he insisted that he stopped a third time
before proceeding through the intersection. Brooks
alternatively argued that R.C. 4511.43 only required him to
stop once and that he satisfied this when he stopped on his
approach to the intersection.
7} The trial court asked Brooks clarifying questions
about his account:
The Court: Okay, okay, just wait a minute. So the first two
cars were already at the intersection, that's what you
Brooks: Yes Your Honor.
The Court: You then come up on them, just to walk through,
you then stop behind the two cars?
Brooks: Yes Your Honor.
The Court: Okay. Then the first car headed right or left or
straight, don't matter, headed out, the car in front of
you then stopped at some vicinity of a stop sign.
Brooks: Yes Your Honor.
The Court: You then stopped behind ...