FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CR 2017-10-3621
M. KILLE, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
BEVAN WALSH, Prosecuting Attorney, and JACQUENETTE S. CORGAN,
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
Appellant, Robert Hanford, appeals his conviction by the
Summit County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.
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
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.
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.
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.
OF ERROR NO. 1
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.
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.
"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.
Murder is prohibited by R.C. 2903.02, which provides, in
(A) No person shall purposely cause the death of
another or the unlawful termination of another's
(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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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 ...