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State v. Knight

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

July 24, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
WILLIAM M. KNIGHT Appellant

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR-2017-04-1153

          JEFFREY N. JAMES, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          SHERRI BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and JACQUENETTE S. CORGAN, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          HENSAL, JUDGE.

         {¶1} William Knight appeals his convictions from the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} This appeal involves the shooting death of a man who tried to sell a stolen dirt bike on Facebook. While the trial-court record in this matter is voluminous, including testimony from over a dozen witnesses, we will limit our recitation of the facts to those that are relevant to the arguments presented.

         {¶3} There was no dispute at trial that Mr. Knight shot and killed the victim in this matter. About a year prior to the shooting, Mr. Knight's son-in-law, Curtis, had a dirt bike stolen from his garage. On the day of the shooting, Curtis saw the dirt bike posted for sale on Facebook by a man named Justin. Justin did not have possession the bike, but posted it for sale at the request of his friend, Keith, who is the victim in this matter. Pretending to be an interested buyer, Curtis tried to contact Justin through Facebook to no avail. Curtis then asked a friend to contact Justin. When his friend was successful, Curtis - acting like his friend - arranged to meet Justin that evening.

         {¶4} Curtis and Justin met at one location, but eventually drove to a second nearby location where Keith and the dirt bike were located. The second location was on the street in front of Keith's uncle's house, which was a dead-end street. When Curtis and Justin arrived, Keith started the dirt bike and drove it up and down the street at least once. Curtis continued to pretend to be an interested buyer until he was able to confirm that it was, in fact, his dirt bike.

         {¶5} After inspecting the dirt bike, Curtis produced the title and told Keith that the bike was his. With Keith still sitting on the dirt bike, an argument ensued. Curtis told Keith that he wanted the bike back, and Keith - who apparently did not steal the dirt bike but knew it had been stolen - was unwilling to give it to Curtis without at least some payment. Meanwhile, Mr. Knight and his daughter, Michelle (Curtis's wife), arrived on the scene. Michelle called 911 and was explaining the situation when the argument escalated. At that time, Keith was still on the dirt bike, and Curtis had his hands on the handlebars, preventing Keith from riding away.

         {¶6} While the foregoing facts were generally undisputed at trial, what happened next varied between the witnesses. Generally, though, it was undisputed that the dirt bike's engine revved and that Mr. Knight fired a shot into the air, allegedly trying to de-escalate the situation. Keith then maneuvered the dirt bike away from Curtis, rode a short distance toward the non-dead-end side of the street, struck a parked car, fell onto the street but managed to stay on the dirt bike, and then turned - or was turned by virtue of the collision - back toward Curtis, Mr. Knight, and Michelle (i.e., toward the dead-end side of the street). The dirt bike then did a "wheelie[, ]" at which point Mr. Knight fired a second shot, striking Keith in the head and killing him. Almost immediately afterward, Mr. Knight approached Michelle (who was still on the phone with the 911 operator), took her cell phone, identified himself, and explained to the operator that he shot Keith because he had no choice; Keith was trying to run into his daughter, his son-in-law, and him.

         {¶7} Police arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and arrested Mr. Knight. A grand jury indicted him on one count of murder in violation of Revised Code Section 2903.02(A), one count of murder in violation of Section 2903.02(B), one count of felonious assault in violation of 2903.11(A)(1), and one count of felonious assault in violation of Section 2903.11(A)(2), all with accompanying firearm specifications. Mr. Knight pleaded not guilty, and the matter proceeded to a jury trial.

         {¶8} At trial, Mr. Knight argued that he acted in self-defense and/or in defense of others, that is, in defense of Curtis and Michelle. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts, and the trial court sentenced Mr. Knight to a total of 18 years of ...


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