Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Hanford

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

July 24, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
ROBERT HANFORD Appellant

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR 2017-10-3621

          ANGELA M. KILLE, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

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

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          CALLAHAN, JUDGE

         {¶1} Appellant, Robert Hanford, appeals his conviction by the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} At approximately 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 1, 2017, the Twinsburg Police Department received a 911 call reporting that an individual had been stabbed at a residence at the intersection of Darrow Road and Sherwin Drive. When they arrived, Mr. Hanford ran from the house, and officers noted that he appeared to be distraught. Mr. Hanford had bloodstains on his clothing, including a large stain on his left knee.

         {¶3} Inside the house, they found the body of M.B. lying face down between a couch and a coffee table in the living room. M.B. did not bear any wounds that were visible in the position in which he was found, but he was unresponsive. Upon closer examination, officers noted that his skin was gray and "cold to [the] touch"; he had no pulse or signs of respiration. Although the living room was cluttered and in disarray and there were droplets of blood in some places, the room was notable as the scene of a stabbing because it was relatively free of bloodstains. Underneath M.B.'s body, however, police found a pool of blood. During a preliminary examination at the scene, the medical examiner noted a knife wound to the chest near M.B.'s heart.

         {¶4} Mr. Hanford was transported to the police station for questioning, where he initially informed police that he woke up and found that M.B. had been stabbed, but did not know what had happened. He acknowledged that he had been arguing with M.B. and ultimately admitted that he stabbed M.B. once. Although Mr. Hanford did not disclose the location of the knife that he had used immediately, he later informed police that it would be found in the area of a small decorative pond in the front yard of the residence. Armed with this information, police recovered a closed pocketknife at the bottom of the pond.

         {¶5} Mr. Hanford was charged with two counts of murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A) and 2903.02(B), respectively, and one count of felonious assault in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A). A jury found him guilty of each charge. The trial court merged the counts and sentenced Mr. Hanford to a term of life imprisonment with parole eligibility after fifteen years. Mr. Hanford appealed. His four assignments of error are rearranged for purposes of disposition.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 1

         THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT OVERRULED A TIMELY DEFENSE MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL PURSUANT TO CRIMINAL RULE 29 AS THERE WAS NOT SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE PRESENTED BY THE STATE OF OHIO TO ESTABLISH A PRIMA FACIE CASE OF MURDER TO WARRANT THE CASE BEING SUBMITTED TO THE JURY.

         {¶6} Mr. Hanford's first assignment of error argues that his convictions for murder are not supported by sufficient evidence because the State did not produce any evidence demonstrating that he acted with the intent required to commit murder. This Court disagrees.

         {¶7} "Whether a conviction is supported by sufficient evidence is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo." State v. Williams, 9th Dist. Summit No. 24731, 2009-Ohio- 6955, ¶ 18, citing State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386 (1997). The relevant inquiry is whether the prosecution has met its burden of production by presenting sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction. Thompkins at 390 (Cook, J., concurring). In reviewing the evidence, we do not evaluate credibility, and we make all reasonable inferences in favor of the State. State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 273 (1991). The evidence is sufficient if it allows the trier of fact to reasonably conclude that the essential elements of the crime were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.

         {¶8} Murder is prohibited by R.C. 2903.02, which provides, in part:

(A) No person shall purposely cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another's pregnancy.
(B) No person shall cause the death of another as a proximate result of the offender's committing or attempting to commit an offense of violence that is a felony of the first or second degree and that is not a violation of section 2903.03 or 2903.04 of the Revised Code.

(Emphasis added.) R.C. 2903.02(A)/(B). As required by R.C. 2903.02(A), "[a] person acts purposely when it is the person's specific intention to cause a certain result, or, when the gist of the offense is a prohibition against conduct of a certain nature, regardless of what the offender intends to accomplish thereby, it is the offender's specific intention to engage in conduct of that nature." R.C. 2901.22(A). Intent must be demonstrated with reference to the surrounding facts and circumstances. See In re Washington, 81 Ohio St.3d 337, 340 (1998). "'The intent of an accused person dwells in his mind. Not being ascertainable by the exercise of any or all of the senses, it can never be proved by the direct testimony of a third person, and it need not be. It must be gathered from the surrounding facts and circumstances under proper instructions from the court.'" Id., quoting State v. Huffman, 131 Ohio St. 27 (1936), paragraph four of the syllabus.

         {¶9} Felonious assault, which is the offense upon which Mr. Hanford's conviction for murder under R.C. 2903.02(B) was predicated, provides that "[n]o person shall knowingly * * * [c]ause serious physical harm to another[.]" (Emphasis added.) R.C. 2903.11(A)(1). As R.C. 2901.22(B) explains,

A person acts knowingly, regardless of purpose, when the person is aware that the person's conduct will probably cause a certain result or will probably be of a certain nature. A person has knowledge of circumstances when the person is aware that such circumstances probably exist. When knowledge of the existence of a particular fact is an element of an offense, such knowledge is established if a person subjectively believes that there is a high probability of its existence and fails to make inquiry or acts with a conscious purpose to avoid learning the fact.

         If there is sufficient evidence that Mr. Hanford acted purposely, as required by R.C. 2903.02(A), it follows that there is sufficient evidence demonstrating that he acted knowingly, as required by R.C. 2903.02(B) and R.C. 2903.11(A)(1). See R.C. 2901.22(E) ("When knowledge suffices to establish an element of an offense, then purpose is also sufficient culpability for such element."). See also State v. Coleman-Muse, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 15AP-566, 2016-Ohio-5636, ¶ 10, fn3.

         {¶10} M.B. died as a result of a single stab wound to the chest that penetrated the left ventricle of his heart. According to Dr. George Sterbenz, the Summit County Deputy Medical Examiner, the left ventricle is "the muscular pump portion of the heart," and a stab wound in that area results in rapid blood loss. Dr. Sterbenz characterized M.B.'s stab wound as "rapidly fatal." The fatal wound was approximately four inches in length, passing between the fourth and fifth ribs from front to back in a direction that was slightly left-to-right and downward.

         {¶11} Dr. Sterbenz explained that M.B. experienced massive loss of blood into the hemothorax, where 800 milliliters of blood collected. That volume of accumulated blood forced the air out of M.B.'s left lung, and the lung collapsed. This mechanism alone, according to Dr. Sterbenz, represented enough blood loss to result in hemorrhagic shock and death. At the same time, however, Dr. Sterbenz noted that the heart continued to pump blood that accumulated in the pleural space, which led to pericardial tamponade, in which the blood accumulating in the pleural space exerts pressure on the heart that leads to loss of circulation:

It's like putting a tourniquet on your arm to stop the blood from an injury to prevent bleeding out your arm.
In this case, the tamponade is the squeezing of the blood for the heart; and that's going to make it hard, first, for the heart to pump.
It's also going to cause the blood vessels that enter and exit the heart to collapse.
So, pericardial tamponade causes cessation of circulation. Even though the heart is still trying to pump, it's mechanically being prevented from pushing blood [out] of the heart, and it's mechanically being prevented from pulling blood back into the heart; so, circulation stops.

         According to Dr. Sterbenz, critical pericardial tamponade, as was present in this case, results in loss of consciousness with seconds and death in a matter of minutes. Dr. Sterbenz also described what would be observed in the moments after such an injury is sustained:

People that are observed to have injuries that result in pericardial tamponade within seconds will be - - witnesses will say they just fell down, they just collapsed, within less than a minute; and they ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.