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State v. Wright

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

December 17, 2019

State of Ohio, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Michael A. Wright, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No. 17CR-4650

         On brief:

          Ron O'Brien, Prosecuting Attorney, and Barbara A. Farnbacher, for appellee.

          The Law Offices of Thomas F Hayes, LLC, and Thomas F Hayes, for appellant.

          DECISION

          SADLER, J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Michael A. Wright, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, convicting him of improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation, in violation of R.C. 2923.161; discharging a firearm on or near a prohibited premises in violation of R.C. 2923.162; tampering with evidence, in violation of R.C. 2921.12; and attempted having a weapon while under disability, in violation of R.C. 2923.02. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶ 2} This case arises out of a drive-by shooting at Salvatore Gaetano's residence located at 2242 Union Avenue in Columbus, Ohio, on August 12, 2017. Columbus Police Officer Harry Brian Dorsey testified that he was on patrol on Sullivant Avenue near Whitethorne Avenue when, at approximately 11:30 p.m., he heard several gunshots ring out followed by a slight pause, and then several more gunshots. Almost immediately after the second set of shots was fired, Dorsey heard a loud crashing sound. Dorsey responded by driving his cruiser to the area south of Sullivant and east of Whitmore and exiting his vehicle. Dorsey saw a tall, heavy set, black male wearing dark clothing running north into an alley before turning west and running through a neighborhood. Dorsey testified that the man had something in his hand, but he was unable to make it out.

         {¶ 3} Though Dorsey lost sight of the man for a moment, he continued on foot to a residence located at 464 Whitethorne Avenue where he observed the same black male, later identified as appellant, standing on the front porch. Dorsey testified that the man was "blading" his body as if to conceal something from Dorsey. (Aug. 15, 2018 Tr. at 62.) According to Dorsey, appellant told him that someone had just taken a shot at him and pointed toward a white male, later identified as Gaetano, who was running west on Union Avenue. With the help of Officer Gerald Randal, who had also heard the gunshots and had just arrived at the scene, Gaetano was detained and placed in a police cruiser where he told the officers that someone had just shot at his house. Dorsey noticed a large number of shell casings in the street in front of Gaetano's home.

         {¶ 4} As he was speaking with Gaetano, Dorsey observed a disabled Chevrolet Cruze that had crashed into a pole at Union Avenue near Butler Avenue. Dorsey believed this vehicle was associated with a person named Micah Harris because he had seen Harris driving that vehicle in the past. According to Dorsey, he approached a man by the name of Michael Cook, who was standing by the disabled vehicle. After speaking with Cook, Dorsey returned to the residence located at 464 Whitethorne Avenue. When Dorsey arrived at the residence located at 464 Whitethorne Avenue, appellant went inside the residence and refused to come out. After a brief stand-off, appellant came outside, and police took him into custody. Dorsey then observed an open wound on appellant's head. Dorsey testified that the wound resembled a grazing gunshot wound, but he acknowledged that appellant could have sustained the wound as a result of his vehicle colliding with the pole. Medics bandaged appellant's head wound at the scene, but appellant refused further treatment.

         {¶ 5} Detective Mark Smith arrived at Gaetano's residence to investigate the incident. Smith interviewed Gaetano, who was still seated in a police cruiser when Smith arrived. His partner, Detective Zimmer, interviewed Gaetano's daughter-in-law, who had an infant child with her. Smith described Gaetano's residence as a small one-story, single-family dwelling, and that the entire front of the home was riddled with bullet holes, some of which penetrated the outer wall windows. After viewing the scene, Smith contacted the Crime Scene Search Unit Columbus ("CSSU") to have the scene processed. CSSU subsequently processed the scene at the 464 Whitethorne Avenue residence, the residence at 242 Union Avenue, and the site of the vehicle crash.

         {¶ 6} At trial, Smith testified about the evidence CSSU found at the scenes, including photographs showing bullet strikes both inside and outside Gaetano's residence and to his vehicle which was parked nearby. Eleven shell casings were collected from in front of the home, ten of which were fired from a .40-caliber firearm and one from a 9 mm firearm. Two shell casings were found inside the crashed vehicle as well as blood samples taken from the driver's side door and driver's seat. Evidence collected at the 464 Whitethorne Avenue address included two handguns, one with an extended magazine, found under or inside the cushions on the love seat. One of the firearms was a Glock model and the other was a Smith & Wesson.

         {¶ 7} According to Smith, there was evidence of a small trail of blood from the back door of the home to the love seat where the two firearms and extended magazine were found. There was also a pair of blood-stained sweatpants at the same location and blood stains were found on the extended magazine. Miranda Aufiero from Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation ("BCI") testified that there was single-source DNA in the blood samples taken from the Glock firearm, the laser light for that firearm, the cushion of the love seat, and the driver's side front floor area of the crashed vehicle. These samples matched appellant's DNA. Aufiero admitted that a mixed DNA profile was also found on the Glock firearm and the laser light for that firearm, and that she could not obtain a useful DNA profile from the blood found on the Smith & Wesson firearm. Gunshot residue tests of appellant's hands were negative.

         {¶ 8} Kelby Ducat from BCI testified that he tested the two weapons recovered from the Whitethorne Avenue residence and found them to be operable. With regard to the shell casings recovered from in front of Gaetano's home and inside the crashed vehicle, Ducat found that ten had been fired from the Glock and three from the Smith & Wesson. Investigators did not remove and test any of the spent projectiles imbedded in either the exterior or interior of Gaetano's home.

         {¶ 9} On August 23, 2017, a Franklin County Grand Jury indicted appellant on three counts of felonious assault, in violation of R.C. 2903.11, a felony of the second degree, one count of improperly discharging a firearm at or into a habitation, in violation of R.C. 2923.161, a felony of the second degree; one count of discharging a firearm on or near a prohibited premises, in violation of R.C. 2923.162, a felony of the third degree; one count of improperly handling a firearm in a motor vehicle, in violation of R.C. 2923.16, a felony of the fourth degree; one count of tampering with evidence, in violation of R.C. 2921.12, a felony of the third degree; and one count of having a weapon while under disability, in violation of R.C. 2923.13, a felony of the third degree. Each of the counts was accompanied by a three-year firearm specification. ...


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