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State v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Stark

August 26, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
JOSEPH D. BROWN Defendant-Appellant

          Appeal from the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2018CR0303


          For Defendant-Appellant: JACOB T. WILL

          JUDGES Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J.


          DELANEY, J.

         {¶1} Appellant Joseph D. Brown appeals from the July 13, 2018 judgment entries of conviction and sentence, incorporating the July 3, 2018 judgment entry overruling his motion to suppress, of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. Appellee is the state of Ohio.


         {¶2} This matter arose around 1:00 a.m. when Jane Doe called 911 to report she was assaulted by appellant, her live-in boyfriend. Canton police were on the scene within three minutes. Officers responded to an apartment building on 15th Street N.W. and found Jane sitting on the front steps of the multi-unit building, holding a towel to her eye.

         {¶3} Ptl. Robert Huber testified he could see the "substantial" injury to Jane's eye as he exited his cruiser, twenty feet away from where she was sitting. Jane told officers she had been living with appellant since she was released from jail a short time before. On this night, appellant was on the phone when Jane asked him a question. Appellant became angry and struck her once in the face with a closed fist, knocking her to the ground.

         {¶4} Officers observed blood running down Jane's face and requested medics to the scene because Jane was obviously seriously injured. A sergeant arrived on the scene and photographed her injuries. Officers described Jane as distraught, crying, and breathing heavily. Her eye was swollen and beginning to bruise.

         {¶5} A paramedic evaluated Jane's injuries. He testified at trial and said Jane had traumatic physical injuries to her face which required immediate medical attention. The left side of her face was severely bruised and swollen. Her left eye was swollen almost completely shut, and the eyeball itself was injured and bleeding. She had a 1-centimeter laceration to her eyebrow. Her nose and jaw were also swollen and her left pupil was dilated. The injuries were consistent with Jane's statement that she was struck hard in the eye with a closed fist.

         {¶6} Jane had an "alert & oriented" score of three, indicating she was somewhat dazed. When asked whether she was intoxicated, the paramedic testified she had a slight odor of an alcoholic beverage and told him she had taken one prescription Xanax earlier in the day; he did not believe her to be under the influence. He noted she was as likely to be confused from the traumatic injury. Jane was transported to Mercy Medical Center for further treatment.

         {¶7} Jane spoke to police at the scene and provided appellant's name and the number of the apartment he was in. Officers knocked on the door but no one answered. Jane told them that if the door was locked, he was definitely inside. The apartment had only one door, and it was on an upper floor, making it unlikely appellant had exited the building unseen. Officers also noted they were on the scene within three minutes and had every reason to believe appellant was still inside.

         {¶8} Upon the arrival of the sergeant, officers set up a perimeter around the apartment building, knocked loudly on the door, and advised anyone inside this was a felony arrest. The sergeant approved a forced entry and officers entered the apartment. They found appellant lying in bed and no one else present. Appellant was asleep or pretending to be asleep. Police awakened appellant, Mirandized and arrested him. Appellant at first claimed he didn't know who Jane was, and then denied hitting her. Officers noted an odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from appellant.

         {¶9} Appellee's evidence included photos of Jane from the night of the assault, medical reports from Mercy Medical Center, and the paramedic's written report.

         {¶10} The parties stipulated to the fact that Jane Doe died from unrelated causes prior to appellant's prosecution in the instant case.

         {¶11} Appellant was charged by indictment with one count of felonious assault pursuant to R.C. 2903.11(A)(1), a felony of the second degree [Count I], and one count of domestic violence pursuant to R.C. 2919.25(A), a felony of the third degree [Count II].[1]

         {¶12} Appellant entered pleas of not guilty and filed a motion to suppress Jane Doe's statements to police in the early morning hours of February 6, 2018, asserting that admission of those statements would constitute a violation of the Confrontation Clause. Appellee responded with a memorandum in opposition. The trial court overruled the motion to suppress via a judgment entry dated June 22, 2018 following an evidentiary hearing.

         {¶13} The matter proceeded to trial by jury. Appellant moved for a judgment of acquittal at the close of appellee's evidence and the motion was overruled. Appellant was found guilty as charged. The trial court merged the offenses of felonious assault and domestic violence and sentenced appellant to a single prison term of four years.

         {¶14} Appellant now appeals from the judgment entry of conviction and sentence dated July 13, 2018.

         {¶15} Appellant raises two assignments of error:

         ASSIGNMENTS ...

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