Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas Case Nos. CR-16-603024-A and CR-16-606767-A
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, and
Daniel A. Cleary, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for
A. Stanton, Cuyahoga County Public Defender, Robert B.
McCaleb and Jeffrey M. Gamso, Assistant Public Defenders, for
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
PATRICIA ANN BLACKMON, JUDGE.
Defendant-appellant, Slatter Howell, III, appeals from his
convictions for aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, and
other offenses in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-16-603024-A and his
conviction for felonious assault in Cuyahoga C.P. No.
CR-16-606767-A. He assigns the following errors for our
I. Mr. Howell was denied his constitutional right to the
effective assistance of counsel when, after being accused of
witness tampering and attempting to suborn perjury, his
attorneys simply declared their innocence rather than asking
the trial court to make findings and demanding a mistrial.
II. The trial court's comments bolstering the credibility
of the government's DNA "expert" prejudiced Mr.
III. The trial court committed error when it imposed
consecutive sentences because its finding that consecutive
sentences were necessary to protect the public is altogether
unsupportable and irrational.
2} Having reviewed the record and the controlling
law, we affirm.
3} Howell was charged in a five-count indictment in
Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-16-606767-A in connection with an attack
on Joe Houston on May 1, 2014. On October 11, 2017, Howell
pled guilty to one count of felonious assault and was
sentenced to eight years imprisonment.
4} Howell was also indicted in Cuyahoga C.P. No.
CR-16-603024-A for two homicides and related offenses. Counts
1 through 8 arose from the April 7, 2014 shooting death of
gas station worker Babul Saha ("Saha"), and the
indictment charged Howell with two counts each of aggravated
murder, felonious assault, and aggravated robbery, and one
count each of murder and robbery. The charges also included
repeat violent offender specifications, a notice of prior
conviction, and one-and three-year firearm specifications.
Counts 9 through 14 arose from the May 1, 2014 shooting death
of Theodore Wright ("Wright") and the indictment
charged Howell with aggravated murder, murder, aggravated
robbery, robbery, felonious assault, and tampering with
evidence. The parties agreed that the state would proceed to
trial first on the offenses pertaining to Saha, and the jury
trial for these offenses began on September 5, 2017. The
notice of prior conviction and repeat violent offender
specifications were tried to the court.
5} The state's evidence demonstrated that on the
night of April 7, 2014, Saha was working alone behind the
counter at the Prime Station on Granger Road in Maple
Heights. According to customer Bruce Tyus ("Tyus"),
a man in a gray hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled
tightly over his head approached him at the pumps and asked
how many people were inside the store. Tyus replied that one
or two people were inside. The man walked inside and shortly
after that, Tyus heard gunshots.
6} Dennis Hanson ("Hanson") testified that
around 10:30 p.m., he had stopped at a traffic light near the
Prime Station and observed three individuals in hooded
sweatshirts repeatedly crossing Granger Road at Milo Avenue.
After the shooting, Hanson reviewed police photos and
identified three people as "possibly" involved, but
he was unsure if Howell was among these individuals.
7} Customer Sam Killings ("Killings") went
into the store and waited for service. After a few minutes,
he looked behind the counter and observed the clerk on the
floor "with his eyes rolling in the back of his
head." One of the cash register drawers was opened.
8} Saha died from his injuries. According to
Cuyahoga County Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph Felo
("Dr. Felo"), Saha sustained a gunshot wound to his
torso that ...