Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton
Criminal Appeal From: Hamilton County Trial No. B-1702979
Court of Common Pleas
Appealed From Is: Affirmed
T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Sean M.
Donovan, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for
Michael J. Trapp, for Defendant-Appellant.
The gasoline of social media, poured on a simmering feud,
sparked a conflagration that left one person dead. A murder
prosecution ensued, resulting in a conviction that gives rise
to this appeal. But the defendant only presents an
ineffective assistance claim in this appeal, insisting that
defense counsel should have pursued an "accident"
theory at trial rather than "defense of another."
The record, however, undermines the vitality of the accident
theory, preventing us from concluding that trial counsel
committed a strategic blunder here. For the reasons discussed
below, we accordingly affirm the conviction.
During an afternoon in May 2017, Tyshara Walker was involved
in a physical altercation with an acquaintance after being
refused a ride, and she ultimately summoned the police to
report the incident. After the altercation, Ms. Walker
returned to work and tried to put the matter behind her, but
the constant ding of Facebook alerts on her phone distracted
her. Like wildfire, word spread about the incident and Ms.
Walker's decision to call the police, which attracted the
scorn of the Facebook community. Shawnice Johnson chimed in
with the mob-like chorus, prompting a Facebook back-and-forth
between her and Ms. Walker in which the two eventually agreed
to "meet up" that evening, mutually understood to
be an agreement to fight.
By the time the two met on the corner of Stanton Avenue and
Oak Street, the entire neighborhood appeared aware of the
looming fight and eager to witness it. Though disputed
whether everyone pulled up in cars with Ms. Walker, or if the
crowd was already milling about, by the time Ms. Johnson and
Ms. Walker met face-to-face, a crowd had gathered (some
members even brandishing makeshift, Walking
Dead-esque weapons). Among those present in the crowd
was Ms. Walker's older sister, Markeisha Elliott.
Though initially someone attempted to defuse the situation,
the scene quickly devolved into a melee, with Ms. Walker and
Ms. Johnson at the epicenter. With punches and kicks flying,
the two combatants ultimately tumbled to the ground. Video
footage captured on cellphones from that evening reveals that
it was then that Ms. Elliott, sitting on the sidelines until
this point, advanced over to where her sister and Ms. Johnson
wrestled on the ground. She approached the two with a small,
pointed object in hand, which Ms. Elliott later acknowledged
was a knife. Ms. Elliott then bent over and made a thrusting
movement with the hand holding the knife in the direction of
Ms. Johnson. In the wake of that blow, Ms. Johnson stumbled
to her feet, clutching her neck. The crowd quickly dispersed
as the severity of Ms. Johnson's wounds became apparent.
Though rushed to the hospital, the knife had punctured Ms.
Johnson's left carotid artery; she eventually lost
consciousness and later died. After a police investigation,
Ms. Elliott was indicted and tried for murder, two counts of
felonious assault, and tampering with evidence.
At trial, Ms. Elliott's defense counsel presented a
defense of another theory, seeking to establish that she
acted only to protect the life of her sister that evening. On
the witness stand, Ms. Elliott admitted she stabbed Ms.
Johnson, but portrayed it as an accident:
Q: * * * What happened when you reached in to pull these
A: I accidently stabbed [Ms. Johnson].
Q: * * * And I'm going to ask you, why did you stab [Ms.