Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common
Pleas Case No. CR-17-617001-A.
AFFIRMED IN PART; VACATED IN PART
Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting
Attorney, and Brian D. Kraft, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney,
Newman, for appellant.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
MICHELLE J. SHEEHAN, JUDGE.
1} Greggory Jones appeals from his convictions of
felonious assault and tampering with evidence and the firearm
specifications accompanying tampering with evidence. He also
challenges the maximum term he received for tampering with
evidence. On appeal, he raises the following assignments of
error for our review:
1. Appellant's conviction for felonious assault was not
based on sufficient evidence and was against the manifest
weight of the evidence.
2. Appellant's conviction for tampering with evidence was
not based on sufficient evidence and was against the manifest
weight of the evidence.
3. The trial court erred in sentencing appellant to serve a
three-year firearm specification attached to the tampering
with evidence charge due to the state's failure to prove
the elements of the specification.
4. The trial court erred in sentencing appellant to serve a
one-year firearm specification attached to the tampering with
evidence charge since the alleged tampering rendered the
5. The trial court erred when it sentenced appellant to
consecutive firearm specifications in violation of his
constitutional protection against cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of his right to substantive due
6. Appellant was denied his right to effective assistance of
counsel due to the cumulative effect of counsel's errors.
7. The trial court erred in sentencing appellant to a maximum
term of imprisonment on his conviction for tampering with
2} After a careful review, we affirm Jones's
convictions of felonious assault, tampering with evidence,
and the one-year gun specifications accompanying his
offenses, and his sentence for these offenses. We, however,
find merit to the third assignment of error and, accordingly,
vacate the three-year firearm specification associated with
his offense of tampering with evidence.
3} The indictment against Jones stemmed from the
death of Raymond Laster. On September 15, 2016, Laster's
half-naked, bullet-ridden body was found in a deserted
backyard. On that same day, Jones, naked and in a PCP-induced
haze, was found walking in a street, and the clothing
scattered around him had Laster's blood on it. The lab
test subsequently showed Laster's body to be positive for
PCP as well.
4} In connection with Laster's death, Jones was
indicted for aggravated murder (R.C. 2903.01(A)), murder
(R.C. 2903.02(B)), felonious assault (R.C. 2903.11(A)(1)),
felonious assault (R.C. 2903.11(A)(2)), and tampering with
evidence. Each of the five counts was accompanied with one-
and three-year firearm specifications.
5} At trial, the state presented the testimony from
the police officers who investigated the shooting, the
pathologist who performed the autopsy, a crime analyst
specialized in cell-tower mapping, two forensic scientists, a
firearm examiner, Jones's ex-girlfriend, and Laster's
girlfriend. The testimony reflects that on September 15,
2016, a half-naked body was discovered in a deserted backyard
on Parkview Avenue in the east side of Cleveland. The police
received the call about the body around 2:40 p.m. The victim
was shirtless, and his pants were pulled down. He had
multiple gunshot wounds, and a 9 mm shell casing was located
near the body. His cell phone and wallet were still in his
6} Sometime in mid-afternoon, the police also
responded to a dispatch call indicating a man was
"taking his clothes off and also possibly wielding a
gun." When the police arrived, they saw a naked man
getting in and out of a vehicle, a gold Chrysler, and walking
around. The police found a pair of pants, a shirt, and a cell
phone near him.
7} The man, Greggory Jones, was eventually arrested
without incident. The police suspected he was high on PCP
because people under the influence of PCP have a tendency to
take their clothes off. Jones was taken to the hospital after
he was arrested, and a toxicology test showed him to be
indeed high on PCP. When he awoke from his disoriented state,
he told the police that people were trying to rob and kill
him. A vial of PCP was later found inside the car.
8} There was a pool of fresh blood on the front
passenger seat of the Chrysler. The blood was subsequently
matched to Laster's DNA. Laster's blood was also
detected on Jones's shorts retrieved from where Jones was
9} Although the victim sustained seven
"through-and-through" shots (meaning the bullets
passed through the body), no bullets were found inside the
vehicle. Inside the vehicle, however, the police found a 9 mm
H&K semiautomatic handgun "broken into pieces"
and nine, 9 mm shell casings. The police did not perform DNA
testing on the shell casings found inside the car, and the
DNA testing performed on the shell casing found near the body
did not produce a useful profile. However, James Kooser of
the Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Laboratory, a
firearms examiner, testified that he compared all ten shell
casings - nine from inside the vehicle and one found near the
victim's body - with the firearm found in the Chrysler.
Although the firearm was missing the barrel and the side
return spring, he used a loaner barrel and spring for
test-firing. Kooser was able to determine that all ten, 9 mm
casings were fired from the same firearm and that they were
fired from the firearm found inside the vehicle.
10} Laster, the victim, lived with his girlfriend on
South Moreland Road, several blocks from Parkview Avenue
where his body was found. Laster had dropped off his
girlfriend at her workplace at 9:00 a.m. The last time she
spoke with him was around 9:50 a.m.
11} A detective from the police department testified
regarding video footage shot from multiple camera angles
covering the area outside Laster's apartment building.
The footage showed that around 10:00 a.m., Laster was seen
exiting his apartment building, and at 10:25 a.m., the video
showed a gold vehicle pull up. The detective also testified
that he was able to determine from his viewing of the video
footage that Laster went inside the vehicle.
12} A crime analyst with the Cleveland Police
Department conducted cell-tower mapping of the cell phone
found with Jones when he was arrested. The cell-tower records
showed that sometime before 10 a.m., the cell phone was in
the general area of the South Moreland Road location where
Laster was last seen and the Parkview Avenue location where
his body was found.
13} The Chrysler's owner turned out to be Arruth
Glass, who used to date Jones but their relationship had
ceased to be romantic before the incident. She was also the
owner of the dismantled handgun found in the vehicle. The
defense's theory is that Maurice Grey, Glass's
younger brother, shot and killed Laster and that the bullets
that killed Laster came from a different gun, not the gun
found in the vehicle.
14} Glass testified that she lived on Langley Avenue
with her mother. Her brother Maurice Grey, who was 18 years
old in 2016, also resided there. She worked the night shift
as a security guard at Case Western Reserve University, and
she kept the gun locked in the glove compartment of the
vehicle. On the day of the incident, she dropped her children
off at their school at 7:30 a.m. and returned to her house at
7:45 a.m. She parked her vehicle in her driveway and placed
her keys, including the keys to her vehicle and the glove
compartment, on the kitchen table. She then took a bath and a
long nap in preparation for her night shift at the
15} Sometime after noon, she was awakened by a phone
call from Jones's mother about the shooting incident and
saw that her vehicle was missing from her driveway. Glass
testified that she did not give Jones permission to use her
vehicle or the firearm in the glove compartment.
16} Glass also testified that she had seen Jones
socialize with Laster on a few occasions. Regarding her
brother, Glass testified on direct examination that he was
home that morning and, to her knowledge, he never left the
house. She knew that because when she received the phone call
from Jones's mother about the shooting, her brother was
still in the same pajamas when she saw him earlier that
morning. She testified that "[h]e looked like he
didn't go anywhere. He was walking around with his hair
all messed up on his head. You can tell he didn't go
anywhere. You could tell." She also testified she had
never seen her brother with the victim.
17} The defense did not introduce its own witnesses,
but tried to link Glass's brother to the shooting during
its cross-examination of Glass. She was asked if she had told
a detective that, while she was taking a bath, Jones came
into the house and took the keys from her brother, and she
learned about it from her brother. In response, Glass
testified that she remembered telling the detective that
while she was taking a bath, her brother let Jones into the
house but her brother did not realize Jones took the keys off
18} On redirect examination, Glass testified that
she moved in with her mother after breaking up with Jones.
She was in an abusive relationship with Jones, and she wanted
to get away from him.
19} At the close of the state's case-in-chief,
the defense moved for an acquittal of all charges. The trial
court denied the motion but granted the prosecutor's
motion to amend the aggravated murder count to the
lesser-included charge of purposeful murder under R.C.
20} The defense rested without presenting its own
witnesses. At closing argument, defense counsel offered its
interpretation of the testimony presented at trial: that
Maurice Grey, rather than Jones, was the shooter. Without
elaboration, defense counsel suggested to the jury that
"Maurice Grey was on the phone in the car when those
[cell] towers pinged, and Greggory Jones got into the car
21} The jury found Jones not guilty of the
two murder counts - under R.C. 2903.02(A) ("purposely
cause the death of another") or under R.C. 2903.02(B)
("cause the death of another as a proximate result of
the offender's committing or attempting to commit an
offense of violence that is a felony of the first or second
degree"). The jury also found Jones not guilty
of felonious assault as defined in R.C. 2903.11(A)(2)
("knowingly * * * [c]ause or attempt to cause physical
harm to another * * * by means of a deadly weapon"). The
jury found him guilty of felonious assault as
defined in R.C. 2903.11(A)(1) ("knowingly * * * [c]ause
serious physical harm to another"). The jury also found
him guilty of tampering with evidence in dismantling
22} Regarding the firearm specifications in
connection with felonious assault, the jury found Jones
guilty of the one-year firearm specification (possessing a
firearm) but not guilty of the three-year firearm
specification (displaying, brandishing, or indicating the
possession of the firearm, or using it to facilitate the
offense). Regarding the firearm specifications in connection
with tampering with evidence, the jury found Jones guilty of
both the one-year and the three-year firearm specifications.
23} The jury verdicts were seemingly inconsistent -
Jones was found not guilty of the murder counts and also not
guilty of felonious assault in causing the victim physical
harm by means of a deadly weapon, yet he was found guilty of
felonious assault in causing the victim serious physical
harm. In addition, the jury found that, while committing the
latter offense, Jones had a firearm under his possession
(one-year firearm specification) but did not display or
brandish the firearm, indicate he possessed the firearm, or
use it to facilitate the assault (three-year firearm
specification). Understandably, among the claims raised by
Jones on appeal is the claim that the jury's verdicts
were inconsistent, and the inconsistency reflects that the
jury lost its way and, therefore, his convictions were
against the manifest weight of the evidence.
24} The trial court sentenced Jones to a maximum
eight-year term for his felonious assault conviction in
addition to one year for the accompanying firearm
specification. The court also sentenced him to a maximum
three-year term for his conviction of tampering with evidence
and a merged three-year term for the three-year and one-year
firearm specifications accompanying tampering with evidence.
His prison term totals 15 years.
25} Jones raises seven assignments of error for our
review. The first and second assignments of error concern the
sufficiency and manifest weight of the evidence for his
convictions of felonious assault and tampering with evidence.
of Review for Sufficiency and Manifest Weight of
26} When assessing a challenge of the sufficiency of
the evidence, a reviewing court examines the evidence
admitted at trial and determines whether such evidence, if
believed, would convince the average mind of the
defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v.
Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 574 N.E.2d 492 (1991),
paragraph two of the syllabus. "The relevant inquiry is
whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable
to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have
found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a
reasonable doubt." Id. A reviewing court is not
to assess "whether the state's evidence is to be
believed, but whether, if believed, the evidence against a
defendant would support a conviction" State v
Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 390, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997)
(Cook, J, concurring).
27} Unlike sufficiency of the evidence, manifest
weight of the evidence raises a factual issue.
"The court, reviewing the entire record, weighs the
evidence and all reasonable inferences, considers the
credibility of witnesses and determines whether in resolving
conflicts in the evidence, the jury clearly lost its way and
created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the
conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered. The
discretionary power to grant a new trial should be exercised
only in the exceptional case in which the evidence weighs
heavily against the conviction."
Thompkins at 387, quoting State v. Martin,
20 Ohio App.3d 172, 175, 485 N.E.2d 717 (1st Dist.1983).
"[T]he weight to be given the evidence and the
credibility of the witnesses are primarily for the trier of
the facts." State v. DeHass, 10 Ohio St.2d 230,
227 N.E.2d 212 (1967), paragraph one of the syllabus.
28} Under the first assignment of error, Jones
argues his conviction for felonious assault as defined in
R.C. 2903.11(A)(1) ("cause serious physical harm to
another") was not based on sufficient evidence and was
against the manifest weight of the evidence. He claims there
was inadequate evidence to show he was the one who fired the
shots that killed Laster.
29} Our review of the trial transcript shows the
state presented evidence showing that Laster was picked up
from his South Moreland apartment by a gold-colored vehicle
the morning of the shooting. His half-naked body turned up in
a backyard on Parkview Avenue, only several blocks away. A 9
mm shell casing was found near his body. Jones was found
sometime in mid-afternoon, naked and in a PCP-induced haze,
getting in and out of a gold Chrysler. Inside the vehicle,
the police found a dismantled firearm and nine shell casings.
The state's ballistic testing matched the firearm found
inside the vehicle to the shell casings retrieved from the
vehicle as well as the single shell casing near the
victim's body. In addition, the victim's blood was
found on the passenger seat and on Jones's shorts. The
cell-tower record also supported the state's claim that
Jones picked up Laster in ...