Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Fayette
CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM FAYETTE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS No.
C. Weade, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney, Sean M.
Abbott, Fayette County Courthouse, for appellee
H. Eckstein, for appellant
1} Appellant, Brandon Joshua Taylor, appeals his
conviction in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas for
aggravated robbery, felonious assault, and tampering with
2} On November 28, 2017, Lee Watkins arranged to
meet with Aaron Mosley on the parking lot of a Fayette County
church to sell Mosley a pound of marijuana for $3, 000.
Watkins arrived at the church around 6:30 p.m. He removed the
marijuana from the trunk of his car and sat with it inside
the vehicle awaiting Mosley's arrival. Thereafter, Mosley
arrived and parked his car near Watkins' vehicle.
Unbeknownst to Watkins, Mosley was accompanied by appellant,
a person unknown to Watkins. Appellant was armed with a Smith
& Wesson 9mm pistol.
3} Mosley exited his car and sat with Watkins in
Watkins' car. Appellant remained in Mosley's car.
Although Mosley had not yet paid him, Watkins gave the
marijuana to Mosley. Subsequently, the two talked and drank
Hennessy cognac for about 20 minutes. Appellant then
approached Watkins' car, pointed his handgun at Watkins,
ordered him out of the car, and demanded the marijuana.
Watkins exited his vehicle. A struggle over the handgun
ensued between appellant and Watkins. During the struggle,
appellant's handgun discharged, striking him in a forearm
and Watkins in the chest. Mosley and appellant then fled the
scene with the marijuana without paying for it.
4} A church worker present on the parking lot
witnessed the struggle between appellant and Watkins. Upon
hearing a gunshot, the worker retreated to safety, then
called 9-1-1. A deputy sheriff dispatched to the scene found
Watkins bleeding in his car with a gunshot wound to the
chest. Watkins was subsequently air-lifted to a hospital.
5} Sergeant Jon Fausnaugh of the Fayette County
Sheriff's Office and Ohio Bureau of Criminal
Investigation ("BCI") Special Agent Todd Fortner
assisted with processing the scene. While searching
Watkins' car, Agent Fortner noticed an odor of marijuana
in the trunk of the car; however, no marijuana was found in
the trunk. An empty bottle of Hennessy cognac was found in
Watkins' car. A shell casing was also found at the scene.
6} During his investigation, Sergeant Fausnaugh
learned from Watkins that Mosley and another person unknown
to Watkins were involved. Upon interviewing Mosley, Sergeant
Fausnaugh learned that the third individual was appellant.
Upon interviewing appellant, the sergeant learned that
appellant had pawned the Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun. The
handgun was subsequently retrieved from a pawn shop and test
fired. The testing revealed that the shell casing found at
the scene was fired from appellant's handgun.
7} Appellant was indicted in February 2018 on one
count of aggravated robbery with a firearm specification, two
counts of felonious assault, both with a firearm
specification, one count of tampering with evidence, and one
count of discharging a firearm on or near prohibited
premises. Appellant entered a plea of not guilty and the
matter proceeded to a jury trial. At trial, the church
worker, the deputy sheriff, a BCI firearm expert, Agent
Fortner, Sergeant Fausnaugh, and Watkins testified on behalf
of the state. Appellant did not testify or present witnesses
on his behalf.
8} Sergeant Fausnaugh testified how his
investigation of the shooting led him to interview appellant.
During the interview, appellant stated that he accompanied
Mosley to the drug deal; once they arrived at the church, he
remained in Mosley's car and Mosley went into
Watkins' car; and 30 minutes later, armed with his Smith
& Wesson 9mm handgun, appellant exited Mosley's car
and approached Watkins' car. Appellant claimed that an
armed Watkins then exited his car, put his weapon down, and
then grabbed appellant's handgun. Appellant further
claimed that the handgun discharged when he tried to take it
back from Watkins. Appellant told the sergeant he had pawned
the handgun because he needed money to buy food.
9} Watkins testified he did not know appellant
accompanied Mosley to the drug transaction. He further
testified that once appellant pointed the 9mm handgun at him,
he exited his car and put his hands up. Meanwhile, Mosley
exited Watkins' car with the pound of marijuana in hand
and jumped into his own car. Subsequently, Watkins tried to
grab the 9mm handgun from appellant and the two struggled
over the weapon. Watkins did not hear the handgun go off but
saw "the shell fly." He then became extremely weak
and managed to get back in his car where he tried to call
9-1-1. Meanwhile, appellant jumped into Mosley's car and
the two fled the scene. Watkins denied pulling the trigger of
the 9mm handgun. He further denied he had a weapon.
10} In its discovery response to appellant, the
state disclosed that Watkins had a juvenile criminal record.
The discovery indicated that Watkins was born in 1992 and
that he was adjudicated delinquent for aggravated robbery in
2007. On cross-examination, defense counsel asked Watkins
whether he had been convicted of a felony offense within the
last ten years. The trial court sustained the state's
objection and instructed the jury to disregard the question.
11} After the state rested its case-in-chief,
appellant moved for acquittal pursuant to Crim.R. 29. The
trial court denied the motion. Appellant then admitted a
single exhibit and rested without calling witnesses. On
October 25, 2018, the jury found appellant guilty as charged.
Appellant was subsequently sentenced to an aggregate 14-year
12} Appellant now appeals, raising four assignments
of error. The third and fourth assignments of error will be
13} Assignment of Error No. 1:
14} TRIAL COUNSEL RENDERED INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE
DURING TRIAL IN VIOLATION OF DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S RIGHTS
UNDER THE FIFTH, SIXTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS TO THE
UNITED STATES ...