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State v. Reynolds

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

June 13, 2019

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Lamar D. Reynolds, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No. 17CR-5463

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Michael P. Walton, for appellee.

          Todd W. Barstow, for appellant.

         Argued:

          Michael P. Walton.

          Todd W. Barstow.

          DECISION

          KLATT, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Lamar D. Reynolds, appeals from a judgment of conviction and sentence entered by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas following a jury trial. For the following reasons, we affirm that judgment.

         {¶ 2} On October 6, 2017, appellant was indicted on one count of murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A) (purposely causing the death of another), one count of murder in violation of R.C 2903.02(B) (felony murder), and one count of having weapons while under disability in violation of R.C. 2923.13. Both murder counts contained three-year firearm specifications pursuant to R.C. 2941.145(A). The indictment arose out of the shooting death of Damon Jenkins on September 30, 2017.

         {¶ 3} On defense counsel's motion, the trial court ordered a competency evaluation for appellant. Following that evaluation, the trial court determined that appellant was competent to stand trial. The matter thereafter was tried to a jury in June 2018, at which the following evidence was adduced.

         {¶ 4} In May 2009, Jenkins and his wife purchased a barbershop on East Livingston Avenue. In April 2017, appellant, a licensed barber, began renting a chair in the Jenkins' barbershop.

         {¶ 5} Gail Heard-Frazier lived next door to the barbershop and was acquainted with appellant. On September 30, 2017, she was in her home when she heard a single gunshot, followed by "six more." (Tr. at 189.) She opened her front door and saw appellant standing in the middle of the street holding a pistol and "shouting about they tried to take his child away from him." Id. at 191. Appellant then went inside the barbershop.

         {¶ 6} Columbus Police Officers Kevin Yankovich and Aaron McDonald were separately dispatched to the carry-out located across the street from the barbershop on a reported shooting. Yankovich was the first to arrive; he entered the store and observed a man bleeding on the floor. The man had what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the leg; he was "in and out of consciousness" and unable to answer questions. Id. at 155. Several persons inside the carry-out told Yankovich that the suspected shooter was in the barbershop located across the street. Yankovich did not see a weapon inside the carry-out.

         {¶ 7} When McDonald arrived at the scene, Yankovich directed him to the barbershop. Appellant was standing outside; McDonald patted him down and took him into custody. As a result of the patdown, McDonald recovered a bag of marijuana, a gun clip, and a holster. No weapons were recovered from appellant's person.

         {¶ 8} Matt Tschirner, a firefighter/paramedic with the Columbus Fire Department, responded to the scene of the shooting. Upon arrival, he observed a trail of blood leading from the barbershop to the carry-out. Tschirner entered the carry-out and observed a man bleeding on the floor. The man was barely conscious; his speech was incomprehensible. Tschirner observed gunshot wounds in the man's left thigh and right calf. Despite Tschirner's emergency treatment, the man died on the way to the hospital. Tschirner did not observe any weapons on the man or in or around the area of the carry-out.

         {¶ 9} On September 30, 2017, Columbus Police Detective Lisa Swisher of the Crime Scene Search Unit ("CSSU") photographed and collected evidence from both the carry-out and the barbershop. The evidence collected included three spent shell casings found in the backyard outside the rear exit of the barbershop, and an unloaded gun and loaded gun clip found on the counter inside the barbershop. Thereafter, on October 5, 2017, Columbus Police Detective Yvonne Taliaferro of the CSSU collected five spent shell casings from the area outside the rear exit of the barbershop.

         {¶ 10} Amy Amstutz, a forensic scientist in the firearms section of the Columbus Police Crime Laboratory, test-fired the gun recovered from the barbershop and found it to be operable. Upon testing, she determined that the eight shell casings recovered from the scene were fired from that gun.

         {¶ 11} Dr. John A. Daniels, a deputy coroner and forensic pathologist in the Franklin County Coroner's Office, performed an autopsy on Jenkins on October 2, 2017 and issued a report of his findings. According to Dr. Daniels, Jenkins died from a gunshot wound to his left lower thigh that nicked the popliteal artery, causing him to bleed to death. He further noted two additional gunshot wounds-one to the left thigh and one to the right lower leg. Dr. Daniels determined the manner of death to be homicide.

         {¶ 12} Columbus Police Detective Eric Wooten, the lead detective in the case, interviewed appellant following his arrest; the interview was videotaped. Over appellant's objection, the state played the videotaped interview for the jury. (State's Ex. B1.) During the interview, appellant asserted that he rented a chair in Jenkins' barbershop, and that Jenkins allowed him to live there. On September 30, 2017, Jenkins appeared at the barbershop to collect rent money appellant owed him. Appellant admitted that he (appellant) had a gun on him at the time. The two men began arguing; the verbal argument soon turned physical. The fight escalated; they eventually ended up on the ground in the backyard of the barbershop. Jenkins got on top of appellant and tried to take appellant's gun from him. Appellant fired three shots. Two hit Jenkins in the legs-one hit Jenkins as he attempted to climb a fence. The third shot hit Jenkins' car. Jenkins then ran through the barbershop into the carry-out across the street. Appellant thought Jenkins wanted appellant to follow him so that Jenkins could shoot appellant in the carry-out. Appellant followed Jenkins, but stopped in the middle of the street and yelled at Jenkins to come out of the store. Appellant stated that had Jenkins come out of the carry-out with a gun, appellant would have shot at him again. When Jenkins did not emerge from the carry-out, appellant went back into the barbershop, unloaded his gun, removed the clip, and placed them on the counter. He then waited for the police to arrive.

         {¶ 13} At trial, appellant testified on his own behalf. According to appellant, he first met Jenkins when the two were incarcerated in federal prison in 2001. Appellant was released from prison in 2006 and became a licensed barber in 2009. In April 2017, at Jenkins' request, appellant began working in Jenkins' barbershop; Jenkins also permitted appellant to live there. Appellant paid Jenkins a weekly fee to cover his barber chair rental and his living arrangement. Jenkins suggested that appellant sell heroin, cocaine, and other controlled substances out of the barbershop. Appellant declined to do so because he had already gone to prison for selling cocaine and did not want to "put [himself] in jeopardy." Id. at 379. He admitted, however, that he sold marijuana. Jenkins sold appellant a gun so that appellant could protect himself from crime in the neighborhood.

         {¶ 14} Prior to the day of the shooting, Jenkins and appellant sometimes argued about landlord/tenant issues. On the day of the shooting, Jenkins entered the barbershop and started rummaging through appellant's personal belongings. Appellant assumed Jenkins was searching for rent money. Appellant wanted to get Jenkins out of the barbershop, so he told him he would pay him outside. Appellant walked out the back door; Jenkins remained inside. Appellant put the rent money in Jenkins' truck and went back inside the barbershop. Appellant averred Jenkins was "still argumentative," so appellant retrieved the money from the truck, gave it to Jenkins, and asked him to leave. Id. at 388. Jenkins then pushed appellant out the back door; appellant pushed him back, and the two began fighting. Appellant noted that Jenkins was "heavyset [and] knows how to fight." Id. at 393.

         {¶ 15} At some point, Jenkins ended up on the ground. Appellant tapped him on the head and told him he did not want to fight. Jenkins then "attacked" appellant and reached for the gun appellant was carrying. Id. at 395. Appellant felt he needed to defend himself because he thought Jenkins was going to take his gun and shoot him with it. Indeed, appellant testified that "I was in fear of my life at the time." Id. at 396.

         {¶ 16} According to appellant, the struggle for the gun lasted two or three minutes. Appellant eventually gained control of the gun and pointed it at Jenkins. When Jenkins lunged for the gun, appellant shot him in the left leg. He thought shooting him in the leg would end the struggle for the gun; however, Jenkins stood up and began "[m]ean mugging" (staring) at appellant. Id. at 399. Because Jenkins acted like he had not been shot, appellant thought the bullet must have missed him. Jenkins again reached for appellant's gun; appellant shot him again, this time in the right leg. Appellant averred that he shot Jenkins the second time to keep Jenkins from harming him. Apparently realizing he had been shot, Jenkins started running; appellant did not shoot at Jenkins while he was running away.

         {¶ 17} Appellant averred that he knew Jenkins owned several guns, and "I just believed he had a gun, and I didn't have nowhere to go. I couldn't retreat or run from the incident." Id. at 400-01. According to appellant, Jenkins ran in circles around the backyard and then ran toward the fence; he made several unsuccessful attempts at climbing the fence while looking back at appellant. At this point, appellant did not feel threatened or fear for his safety, so he did not feel that it was necessary to retreat. However, Jenkins soon ran toward appellant and tried to "ram" him. Id. at 404. Appellant did not feel the need to retreat because he was in his own home; however, when Jenkins got close to him, appellant shot him in the leg a third time because he "believed he must be trying to get my gun or trying to react or do something to me. I'm like 'Bro, I shot you two times, and you still attacking me after I shot you two times.'" Id. at 405.

         {¶ 18} Jenkins then ran inside the barbershop and stood at the front door for about one minute. Appellant did not feel as if he was in danger at this point, so he did not fire any additional shots at Jenkins. Jenkins then ran out the front door. Shortly thereafter, appellant walked outside and stood in the middle of the street, anticipating the arrival of the police. Appellant still had his gun and began screaming "about the situation." Id. at 412. Appellant was scared because he did not know how Jenkins' friends or neighbors would respond to him shooting Jenkins; he went outside because he was aware of a nearby city crime camera and wanted any encounter with Jenkins or others to be captured on videotape.

         {¶ 19} Appellant eventually went back inside the barbershop. He walked out the back door and fired a shot at Jenkins' truck. When he heard police sirens, he went back inside, emptied the gun of bullets, and removed the clip. He placed these items on the counter because he did not want the police to perceive him as a threat when they arrived.

         {¶ 20} After he was taken into custody, he agreed to an interview because he did not want the police to think he was "hiding something." Id. at 417. According to appellant, "I was just trying to bring some closure to the case, and I didn't want [Wooten] to think that I intended to kill [Jenkins]." Id.

         {¶ 21} Appellant testified that he was never angry at Jenkins, he just "reacted in fear to defend [myself]." Id. at 418. Indeed, appellant averred that "[e]very time [I] shot Damon Jenkins, [I] did it to protect [my] life * * * [b]ecause [I] really believed that he was going to get [my] gun and kill [me]." Id.

         {¶ 22} Appellant admitted that he shot Jenkins; he expressed remorse over killing him. Indeed, he averred that he "didn't intend to kill him and do this to his family" and that "I know if you shoot somebody, you got the intent to die, but I didn't expect him to die." Id. at 377-38.

         {¶ 23} On cross-examination, the state questioned appellant extensively about inconsistencies between his trial testimony and the information he provided Wooten in the interview. Although he admitted that he failed to mention certain details during the interview, he averred that he was truthful during both the interview and at trial. When questioned as to why the photographs taken of him during the interview did not depict any injuries to his hands or face, appellant explained that he "never hit [Jenkins] and there wasn't no fight; it was more of a wrestle * * * with an attempt to snag my gun from the waistline." Id. at 434. He averred he shot Jenkins three times because he "was in fear for my life that he was going to get the gun and kill me." Id. at 435. When asked why he did not leave the backyard after he twice shot Jenkins, he averred he "was still in fear for my life, and Jenkins had a gun." Id. at 437.

         {¶ 24} Following deliberations, the jury returned verdicts finding appellant not guilty of murder as charged in Count 1 of the indictment (purposeful murder), but guilty of murder as charged in Count 2 of the indictment (felony murder), as well as the attached firearm specification, and guilty of having weapons while under disability as charged in Count 3 of the indictment. By judgment entry filed June 15, 2018, the trial court sentenced appellant to an aggregate prison term of 18 years to life.

         {¶ 25} On appeal, appellant sets forth two assignments of error for this court's review:

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND DEPRIVED APPELLANT OF DUE PROCESS OF LAW AS GUARANTEED BY THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUION AND ARTICLE ONE SECTION TEN OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION BY FINDING HIM GUILTY OF MURDER AND HAVING WEAPONS WHILE UNDER DISABILITY AS THOSE VERDICTS WERE NOT SUPPORTED BY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE AND WERE ALSO AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE.

II. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AND DENIED APPELLANT A FAIR TRIAL AND DUE PROCESS OF LAW AS GUARANTEED BY THE SIXTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUION BY REQUIRING HIM TO APPEAR AT ALL STAGES OF HIS JURY TRIAL IN HANDCUFFS AND LEG SHACKLES.

         {¶ 26} In his first assignment of error, appellant contends his convictions for murder and having weapons while under disability are not supported by sufficient evidence and are against the manifest weight of the evidence. We disagree.

         {¶ 27} Sufficiency of the evidence is a legal standard that tests whether the evidence is legally adequate to support a verdict. State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386 (1997). Whether the evidence is legally sufficient to support a verdict is a question of law, not fact. Id. In determining whether the evidence is legally sufficient to support a conviction," '[t]he relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt.'" State v. Robinson,124 Ohio St.3d 76, 2009-Ohio-5937, ¶ 34, quoting State v. Jenks,61 Ohio St.3d 259 (1991), paragraph two of the syllabus. "A verdict will not be disturbed unless, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, it is apparent ...


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