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State v. Randleman

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Lorain

August 12, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
DEVONTAE RANDLEMAN Appellant

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 17CR095509

          JOHN D. TOTH, ATTORNEY AT LAW, FOR APPELLANT.

          DENNIS P. WILL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, AND LINDSEY C. POPROCKI, ASSISTANT PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, FOR APPELLEE.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          LYNNE S. CALLAHAN Judge.

         {¶1} Defendant-Appellant, Devonte Randleman, appeals from his convictions in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} Someone shot S.D. four times after he came home in the middle of the night. The police discovered his body lying in his driveway along with a pair of sunglasses and an iPhone. Because his apartment had been ransacked, the police surmised that a burglary had been in progress when S.D. unexpectedly returned home. An anonymous tip led them to Mr. Randleman, and evidence found at the scene also pointed toward his involvement. Forensic testing of the sunglasses and iPhone detected Mr. Randleman's DNA on those items. Additionally, his DNA was detected on a loaded firearm the police found lying on a dresser inside S.D.'s apartment. The iPhone was registered to Mr. Randleman's girlfriend and used by Mr. Randleman. The police discovered that someone remotely wiped the phone and restored it to its factory settings a little over two hours after the murder. They also discovered that, later that same day, Mr. Randleman purchased a new cell phone.

         {¶3} A grand jury indicted Mr. Randleman on one count of aggravated murder; one count of murder; one count of felony murder; two counts of aggravated robbery, charged under alternative subsections; two counts of aggravated burglary, charged under alternative subsections; two counts of felonious assault, charged under alternative subsections; one count of tampering with evidence; one count of having a weapon under disability; and numerous firearm specifications. The matter proceeded to trial, and a jury found Mr. Randleman guilty on all counts. The trial court then sentenced him to a total of 33 years to life in prison.

         {¶4} Mr. Randleman now appeals from his convictions and raises three assignments of error for review. For ease of analysis, this Court rearranges his assignments of error.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 2

         THE STATE OF OHIO VIOLATED THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT, AND BATSON V. KENTUCKY, WHEN THE PROSECUTOR EXCUSED THE ONLY AFRICAN AMERICAN JUROR FOR BEING "DISHONEST" WHEN HE ONLY DISCLOSED A CRIMINAL CONVICTION THROUGH A JURY QUESTIONNAIRE AND NOT AFFIRMATIVELY DURING VOIR DIRE.

         {¶5} In his second assignment of error, Mr. Randleman argues that his due process rights were violated when the trial court allowed the State to strike Juror Number 5, the only member of the jury pool who was an African American. Upon review, this Court rejects his argument.

         {¶6} "The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits deliberate discrimination based on race by a prosecutor in his exercise of peremptory challenges." State v. Campbell 9th Dist. Summit No. 24668, 2010-Ohio-2573, ¶ 33, citing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 89 (1986). "'A court adjudicates a Batson claim in three steps.'" State v. Were, 118 Ohio St.3d 448, 2008-Ohio-2762, ¶ 61, quoting State v. Murphy, 91 Ohio St.3d 516, 528 (2001).

In the first step, a defendant must make a prima facie showing that the [S]tate has exercised a peremptory challenge on the basis of race. Once the prima facie showing has been made, the State must offer a basis for striking the prospective juror that is race-neutral. Finally, the trial court must consider the parties' positions to determine whether the defendant has demonstrated purposeful discrimination.

(Internal citations omitted.) State v. Jackson, 9th Dist. Summit No. 27739, 2017-Ohio-278, ¶ 6. The final step directs the court to examine the State's race-neutral explanation "'in context to ensure [its] reason is not merely pretextual.'" State v. Pickens, 141 Ohio St.3d 462, 2014-Ohio- 5445, ¶ 63, quoting State v. Frazier, 115 Ohio St.3d 139, 2007-Ohio-5048, ¶ 65. The court "must 'assess the plausibility' of the prosecutor's reason for striking the juror 'in light of all evidence with a bearing on it.'" Pickens at ¶ 63, quoting Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 252 (2005). "The conclusion of the trial court that the [S]tate did not possess discriminatory intent in the exercise of its peremptory challenges will not be reversed on appeal absent a determination that it was clearly erroneous." State v. Hernandez, 63 Ohio St.3d 577, 583 (1992).

         {¶7} During voir dire, the prosecutor asked the prospective jurors whether any of them, their family members, or their friends had ever been "accused or convicted of a crime." Two prospective jurors responded, and the prosecutor asked those jurors about their experiences and whether those experiences would affect their impartiality. The prosecutor then asked the jury pool: "Anyone else? Someone? Anyone else? Here? Anyone?" Because no one else responded, the prosecutor changed topics. Later during voir dire, however, a third prospective juror asked to return to the prosecutor's question and discuss the matter in private. After she did so, a fourth prospective juror ...


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