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State v. Houston

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

November 21, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CARDELL D. HOUSTON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-16-611762-A

          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Gregory J. Ochocki, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Mark A Stanton, Cuyahoga County Public Defender, and Noelle A. Powell and Jeffrey M. Gamso, Assistant Public Defenders, for appellant

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          RAYMOND C. HEADEN, J.

{¶ 1} Defendant-appellant Cardell D. Houston ("Houston") appeals from the trial court's denial of his petition for postconviction relief without a hearing. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         Procedural and Substantive History

         {¶ 2} On December 8, 2016, in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-16-611762-A, Houston was charged with one count of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, two counts of felonious assault, and one count of having weapons while under disability. Five of the six counts carried one- and three-year firearm specifications. After a bench trial, Houston was found guilty of both counts of murder and both counts of felonious assault. For this case and four separate cases, the trial court sentenced Houston to an aggregate sentence of 251/2 years to life.

         {¶3} Houston appealed, arguing among other things that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on the failure to object to the use of True Allele DNA technology. This court overruled Houston's assignments of error. State v. Houston, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga Nos. 106470 and 106055, 2018-Ohio-3043.

         {¶ 4} The following factual history was set forth in Houston's direct appeal:

On November 20, 2015, William Barnes, Jr. was shot and killed in his car on West 104th Street near Western Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. Surveillance video from two nearby homes captured the incident and showed that at approximately 2:06 p.m. a blue Chevy Trailblazer appeared and parked on West 104th Street near Western Avenue. Three minutes later Barnes appeared in a Hyundai Sonata and parked behind the Trailblazer. About one minute later a black male exited the Trailblazer and entered the front passenger seat of Barnes'[s] vehicle. Just under two minutes later, a second black male exited the Trailblazer and entered the rear passenger seat of Barnes' automobile. Less than a minute thereafter flashes of light were visible inside the rear passenger compartment of the Sonata; the front passenger exited the vehicle and seconds later the right rear passenger exited the vehicle as well. The surveillance video showed that after exiting, the rear passenger placed his left hand on the roof of the Sonata just above the right rear passenger door while leaning with his right arm extended back into the passenger compartment of the vehicle. A neighbor witnessed the shooting and testified to seeing two shots fired through an open door of Barnes'[s] vehicle from the passenger side of the vehicle. The posture of the right rear passenger in the video was consistent with this testimony. That passenger then turned to flee back to the Trailblazer and an object consistent with the appearance of a firearm could be seen in his right hand. Nine millimeter shell casings were later recovered by police from both inside the Sonata and on the sidewalk near the passenger side of the vehicle.
The two persons fled in the Trailblazer and shortly thereafter Barnes'[s] Sonata slowly rolled forward into a van parked in front of it. Neighbors who heard, and saw, part of the shooting called 911 and Barnes was found shot and hunched over in the driver seat of the Sonata. He was transported to MetroHealth hospital where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
An autopsy was performed and Dr. Erica Armstrong testified that Barnes had sustained five gunshot wounds. Three gunshot wounds were to Barnes'[s] back right shoulder, the upper portion of his back on the right side and his lower right back. Dr. Armstrong detailed the path of those gunshots as back to front and right to left through Barnes'[s] body. The direction of these wounds was consistent with the state's theory at trial that Barnes was shot by the passenger in the right rear seat of his vehicle.
Investigating detectives swabbed the roof of Barnes'[s] car where the surveillance video reflected the shooter touching the vehicle and the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office linked the major component of the mixture of DNA obtained from those swabs to Cardell Houston. A forensic scientist testified at trial that, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, in the absence of an identical twin, Cardell Houston was the source of the major DNA component obtained from the roof of Barnes'[s] car where the shooter had placed his hand.

         Houston ...


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