from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No.
O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Seth L. Gilbert, for
R. Venters, Public Defender, and Ian J. Jones, for appellant.
1} After a shoot-up that apparently left two people
with relatively minor gunshot wounds and a residence
festooned with bullet holes, a jury convicted James D.
Battle, Jr., of two counts of felonious assault, one count of
discharging a firearm into a habitation, and one count of
improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle, along with
three firearm specifications. The trial judge sentenced him
to a total of eight years in prison.
2} Mr. Battle appeals, arguing that he was deprived
of a fair trial because of comments made in the presence of
the jury about absent witnesses and witness fear of
retaliation, and because of testimony about driving without a
license and a warrant unrelated to the charges for which he
was tried, and about the earlier theft of the gun that he
admitted using on the evening in question. He also challenges
the legal sufficiency and manifest weight of the evidence
regarding the convictions for felonious assault and shooting
into a dwelling; he does not extend his weight and
sufficiency arguments to the improper handling conviction, as
to which count his trial counsel had conceded guilt during
closing argument, see Tr. at 629, 640.
3} By his own account to police, Mr. Battle was
present at the events, in the company of armed companions,
and had brought his own gun, fired his gun (leaving shell
casings at the crime scene), and wound up behind the wheel of
the get-away car (a car he had provided and in which his gun
was discovered). Upon review under the governing standards,
we are not persuaded by any of his arguments on appeal: We
affirm Mr. Battle's convictions. Explaining why, we begin
with a brief summary of some of the evidence the jury heard.
4} Ciera Hampton testified that she lived with Kenya
Chandler and their four children in a large apartment
complex. Tr. at 422-25. Neighbors and friends had gathered to
enjoy the temperate evening of April 12, 2017; everyone was
"having fun and socializing," barbeque was on the
grills, and "the kids were playing." Tr. at 426-27,
5} A new group of five or six men then approached
the gathering. Id. at 428. Ms. Hampton recognized
one of the men in this new group as a neighbor named
"Redd," who "seemed like he was calling out
anybody who wanted to fight." Tr. at 428-29. After she
believed the men had started to leave without further
incident, she walked into her home and was coming back out
when she "started hearing gunfire." Tr. at 431.
People streamed toward her home because "[i]t was the
closest door to go to." Id.
6} Reese Smith and Kenya Chandler were both injured
by the gunfire. Tr. at 432-33. Several bullets struck Ms.
Hampton's dwelling, with one lodging by the door and
another going through an upstairs window. Tr. at 434. Ms.
Hampton could not say how many shots or individual weapons
were fired. Tr. at 435.
7} Kenya Chandler also testified. According to Mr.
Chandler, Redd had brought "a group of people to the
neighborhood" to confront a teenager named
"Duck." Tr. at 454-55. Redd asked Mr. Chandler
where "the guy [Redd] want[ed] to fight" was before
starting to walk away. Tr. at 457. When Redd and his group
reached a nearby dumpster, Mr. Chandler heard "a whole
bunch of shots" and saw everyone run into the apartment
that he shared with Ms. Hampton. Tr. at 457-58. Mr. Chandler
heard "three quick gunshots and then, like, thirty
gunshots"; debris rained down from the bricks of the
building, and bullet holes appeared "all around the
front door" and elsewhere. Tr. at 459, 462. He sustained
injuries from the gunfire, including "a flesh wound on
[his] left arm" and a wound on his "upper right
chest." Tr. at 461.
8} Sabrina Slappy was also present the evening of
April 12, 2017, and told the jury she had been struck in the
face by a flying fragment of brick. Tr. at 237, 247. She
testified that Redd and his companions had engaged in a
"big confrontation" and displayed "a violent
attitude" before shots were fired. Tr. at 238-40. She
was one of the people who fled inside the Hampton/Chandler
apartment when the gunfire began. Tr. at 243. Ms. Slappy
stated that her daughter, Jasmine, identified Redd to the
police as one of the group of shooters. Tr. at 250. Ms.
Slappy did not want her daughter involved lest she become
"a target of retaliation," and only testified
herself because she was subpoenaed by the court. Tr. at
9} Eddie Gray also lived in the apartment complex.
Tr. at 220. Her door was open and she was in the doorway at
the time the gunfire started. Tr. at 223. Ms. Gray ran out
and got her seven-year-old grandson to bring him inside, at
which point she saw "one male run past" wearing a
red sweatshirt with a hood over his head and a gun in his
hand. Tr. at 225-26, 232.
10} Officer Jeffrey Gearhart and his partner
responded to the shooting. Tr. at 266-67. As they arrived,
Officer Gearhart "saw a vehicle leaving * * * at a high
rate of speed" with multiple people inside. Tr. at 267.
He identified the vehicle as a Chevy Malibu and had its
license plate number broadcast over the police radio. Tr. at
11} Officer William Beard also responded to the
dispatch. Knowing that other officers had arrived on the
scene already, he drove south of the apartment complex to
look for the vehicle that had been described. Tr. at 284-85.
A mile past the complex, he pulled up behind a Chevy Malibu
with matching plates. Tr. at 286-87. Mr. Battle, the driver,
was at that point the only person in the vehicle. Tr. at 289,
291. After discovering that Mr. Battle had an outstanding
warrant and a suspended license, Officer Beard arrested him.
Tr. at 291, 294. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Battle was
wearing a red sweatshirt. State's Ex. 63.
12} Officer Benjamin Leppla performed an inventory
of the vehicle, which included a live round of ammunition in
a cup holder, Tr. at 306-07, a Smith & Wesson .45 in the
back seat area, Tr. at 313-14, and several documents with Mr.
Battle's name on them, Tr. at 310. The firearm contained
a single live round in the chamber and three in the magazine.
Tr. at 316.
13} The jury also saw a recording of the interview
police conducted with Mr. Battle (in a red garment) after his
arrest. Tr. at 522; State's Ex. 71. During that
questioning, Mr. Battle stated that he had gone with Redd and
others to the complex, in the car that Mr. Battle provided,
to give back-up protection to Redd as Redd squared off with
an adversary in a contemplated fight. See
State's Ex. 71 (video), e.g. at 16:20
("wanted to make sure he didn't get jumped");
32:00 - 34:00 (Redd had "got into it with some
Dudes"; "We just out here to make sure you [that
is, Redd] good"); 15:50 (Redd's ...