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State v. Edwards

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 25, 2019

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Phillip M. Edwards, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No. 16CR-343)

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Steven L. Taylor, for appellee.

         Argued:

          Steven L. Taylor.

         On brief:

          Samuel H. Shamansky Co., L.PA., Samuel H. Shamansky, Donald L. Regensburger, Colin E. Peters, and Sara A. Hill, for appellant.

         Argued:

          Donald L. Regensburger.

          DECISION

          DORRIAN, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Phillip M. Edwards, appeals from the judgment of conviction and sentence entered by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas pursuant to jury verdicts finding appellant guilty of numerous drug possession offenses and related charges.

         I. Procedural History

         {¶ 2} A Franklin County Grand Jury returned an eight-count indictment against appellant for: (1) possession of heroin equal to or exceeding 250 grams; (2) possession of cocaine equal to or exceeding 100 grams; (3) aggravated possession of drugs (methamphetamine) equal to or exceeding 100 times the bulk amount; (4) aggravated possession of drugs (oxycodone) equal to or proceeding the bulk amount; (5) possession of heroin equal to or exceeding five grams; (6) possession of cocaine; (7) failure to comply with an order to signal or stop after commission of a felony; and (8) failure to comply with an order or signal to stop, causing substantial risk of serious physical harm to persons or property. All offenses occurred on the date of appellant's arrest, January 12, 2016, which was the culmination of a police investigation involving informant tips, a period of surveillance, a controlled buy of narcotics, and a vehicular pursuit ending in a minor wreck. Counts 5 and 6 involved small quantities of drugs found on appellant's person and in his car at the time of his arrest. Counts 1 through 4 involved large amounts of drugs seized on the same day after a search of a residence frequented by appellant.

         {¶ 3} Appellant initially pled guilty to three counts as part of a plea bargain, but later moved successfully to withdraw his plea. The matter proceeded to a jury trial. During the course of trial, the judge replaced a tardy juror with an alternate. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts in the indictment.

         {¶ 4} After the jury was discharged, the assistant prosecutor handling the case became aware that on the day the jury deliberated, an evidentiary exhibit comprised of 71 oxycodone pills had gone missing in the interval between the time the prosecutor had checked this and other physical evidence out of the prosecutor's evidence room on the morning of the last day of trial and the time the evidence was returned to the evidence room after the jury had been discharged. At the prosecutor's request, the pills and other drug evidence had been sent back with the jury for examination during deliberations. Appellant's counsel filed a motion for new trial based on the disappearance of the oxycodone pills and the inference that one or more of the jurors were responsible for the disappearance and that such conduct had prejudicially influenced the jury's deliberations. The trial court denied the motion for new trial and imposed an aggregate sentence of 25 years' incarceration.

         II. Assignments of Error

         {¶ 5} Appellant appeals and assigns the following five assignments of error for our review:

[I.] THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EVIDENCE DURING APPELLANT'S TRIAL, AND THE TRIAL COURT'S SUBSEQUENT REFUSAL TO ORDER A NEW TRIAL, VIOLATED HIS RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS AS GUARANTEED BY THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND ARTICLE I, SECTION 16 OF THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.
[II.] TRIAL COUNSEL'S PERFORMANCE FELL BELOW THE OBJECTIVE STANDARD OF REASONABLENESS AND CONSTITUTES INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL IN VIOLATION OF APPELLANT'S RIGHTS UNDER THE UNITED STATES AND OHIO CONSTITUTIONS.
[III.] THE TRIAL COURT'S REMOVAL OF JUROR NUMBER 7 CONSTITUTED PLAIN ERROR, PREJUDICED APPELLANT, AND VIOLATED HIS RIGHTS A JURY TRIAL AND DUE PROCESS AS GUARANTEED BY THE UNITED STATES AND OHIO CONSTITUTIONS.
[IV.] APPELLANT'S CONVICTIONS ON COUNTS ONE THROUGH FOUR WERE AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE IN VIOLATION OF HIS RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS AS GUARANTEED BY THE OHIO CONSTITUTION.
[V.] APPELLANT WAS DEPRIVED OF A FAIR TRIAL DUE TO THE CUMULATIVE ERRORS OF THE TRIAL COURT IN VIOLATION OF HIS RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS AS GUARANTEED BY THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.

         III. Analysis

         {¶ 6} We first address appellant's fourth assignment of error, which asserts his convictions on Counts 1 through 4, involving large quantities of drugs that were not on appellant's person at the time of his arrest, were against the manifest weight of the evidence. Appellant, in brief, argues that these drugs, taken from a residence located at 854 Antwerp Road in Whitehall, Franklin County, Ohio, were not proved to be in appellant's possession because the prosecution presented no direct evidence appellant had control over items located at that address, which was not linked to appellant through ownership, utility bills, or vehicle registrations. Appellant argues the evidence demonstrates at most that appellant had access to the residence, but did not exercise control or dominion over the property therein.

         {¶ 7} "Weight of the evidence concerns 'the inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence, offered in a trial, to support one side of the issue rather than the other. It indicates clearly to the jury that the party having the burden of proof will be entitled to their verdict, if, on weighing the evidence in their minds, they shall find the greater amount of credible evidence sustains the issue which is to be established before them. Weight is not a question of mathematics, but depends on its effect in inducing belief " (Emphasis sic.) State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 387 (1997), quoting Black's Law Dictionary 1594 (6 Ed.1990). As the finder of fact, the jury is in the best position to weigh the credibility of testimony by assessing the demeanor of the witness and the manner in which he testifies, his connection or relationship with the parties, and his interest, if any, in the outcome. The jury can accept all, a part or none of the testimony offered by ...


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