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State v. Mondie

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

December 26, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
CEDRIC MONDIE, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-17-621490-A


          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Brian D. Kraft, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Susan J. Moran, for appellant.



         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant Cedric Mondie ("Mondie") appeals his convictions and sentence, and asks this court to reverse and remand the matter for a new trial. We affirm Mondie's convictions and sentence.

         {¶ 2} After a jury trial, Mondie was found guilty under an accomplice liability theory 0f two counts of aggravated murder, in violation of R.C. 2903.01(A) and 2903.01(B); one count of kidnapping, a first-degree felony, in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(3); one count of murder, in violation of R.C. 2903.02(B); one count of felonious assault, a second-degree felony, in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(1). Count 6, weapons under disability, a third-degree felony, in violation of R.C. 2923.13(A)(3), was bifurcated and tried to the bench. Mondie was also found guilty under an accomplice-liability theory on Count 6. All counts except having weapons under disability, had a one- and three-year firearm specification attached.

         {¶ 3} Mondie was sentenced to an aggregate of 44 years to life imprisonment. The trial court imposed a prison sentence of 30 years to life with a three-year firearm specification on Count 1, aggravated murder; eight years with a three-year firearm specification on Count 3, kidnaping, to run consecutively to Count 1; and 36 months on Count 6, having a weapon while under a disability. Count 6 was ordered to run concurrent to Counts 1 and 3. The state conceded that Counts 2, 4, and 5 merged into Count 1. Defense counsel objected to the consecutive sentence and failure to merge the charges.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 4} On April 14, 2013, Charles Braxton ("Braxton") asked his friend Demetrius Robinson ("Robinson") to give him a ride to a local gas station. On the way to the gas station, Braxton made a call at 8:34 pm, to a number later associated with Mondie, but no one answered. Within a minute, the caller returned the call to Braxton. Robinson heard Braxton tell the caller that he sees him and Braxton instructed Robinson to turn around. Robinson pulled his red Jeep up to a gas pump and right on the other side of the gas pump was a white car. Braxton exited Robinson's car and entered the rear door on the passenger side of the white vehicle. Robinson observed three people in the white car, but could not clearly see their faces because he only had one contact lens in his eye. However, Robinson was able to give a complete description of the driver's clothing and size. The description matched the surveillance video of Mondie at the gas station. According to Robinson, after two minutes or so, the white car pulled away with Braxton inside. Robinson saw Braxton's face, and Braxton looked concerned. Robinson immediately tried to follow the white car that Braxton was inside. He testified that the driver observed that Robinson was trying to follow and darted into oncoming traffic to lose Robinson's tail.

         {¶ 5} At 8:43 p.m., a citizen made a call to Cleveland Division of Police's dispatch unit stating that there was a man lying face down in the middle of the street. Prior to that 911 call, Jeffery Richard ("Richard") was in his bathroom when he heard someone outside say "Come on, man. Come on." Richard then heard a single gunshot and ran outside to see what happened. He observed a white car speed away from the scene. Richard also observed an unidentified young man standing over a body that was later identified as Braxton. Richard asked the young man if someone was shot. The young man replied affirmatively and Richard moved closer to Braxton and realized that he was still breathing. Richard and another neighbor attempted to render aid.

         {¶ 6} The police arrived at the scene and found a single, spent .45 caliber shell casing near Braxton's body. Braxton was rushed to the hospital where he died from complications of a gunshot wound. The death was classified by the medical examiner as a homicide.

         {¶ 7} Braxton's murder went unsolved for three years. Then, in November 2016, the police received a tip regarding the identity of the driver of the white car. Using the security camera footage from the gas station, the tipster was able to identify the driver from the red star tattoo on his neck. The driver was identified as Mondie. From phone records, Mondie was also identified as the person associated with the phone number Braxton called on his way to the gas station on the day of his murder.

         {¶ 8} Mondie was subsequently charged in a six-count indictment and pleaded not guilty to all counts. After a jury trial, Mondie was found guilty on Counts 1 through 5, and the trial court found Mondie guilty on Count 6. Mondie was convicted under an accomplice liability theory. Mondie was sentenced to 44 years to life imprisonment. Mondie filed this instant appeal assigning three errors for our review:

I. Appellant's convictions are against the manifest weight of the evidence;
II. The trial court erred by denying appellant's motion for acquittal pursuant to Crim.R. 29 when the state failed to submit sufficient evidence of appellant's identification and failed to submit evidence that firearms were used as part of the kidnapping denying the appellant of due process; and
III. The trial court erred in imposing a maximum consecutive sentence which was not supported by the record.

         II. Manifest Weight and Sufficiency of the Evidence

         A. Standard of Review

         {¶ 9} We will review the manifest weight and sufficiency of the evidence and the assignments of error together. The Ohio Supreme Court has addressed the standard of review we must apply for a criminal manifest weight challenge:

The criminal manifest-weight-of-the-evidence standard was explained in State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997). In Thompkins, the court distinguished between sufficiency of the evidence and manifest weight of the evidence, finding that these concepts differ both qualitatively and quantitatively. Id. at 386. The court held that sufficiency of the evidence is a test of adequacy as to whether the evidence is legally sufficient to support a verdict as a matter of law, but weight of the evidence addresses the evidence's effect of inducing belief. Id. at 386-387. In other words, a reviewing court asks whose evidence is more persuasive - the state's or the defendant's? * * * Id. at 387. "When a court of appeals reverses a judgment of a trial court on the basis that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, the appellate court sits as a 'thirteenth juror' and disagrees with the factfinder's resolution of the conflicting testimony." Id. at 387, citing Tibbs v. Florida, 457 U.S. 31, 42, 102 S.Ct. 2211, 72 L.Ed.2d 652 (1982).

State v. Wilson, 113 Ohio St.3d 382, 2007-Ohio-2202, 865 N.E.2d 1264, ¶ 25.

In evaluating a criminal manifest weight challenge, an appellate court must review the entire record, weigh the evidence and all reasonable inferences, and consider the credibility of all witnesses and determine 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. Thompkins at 387, citing State v. Martin, 20 Ohio App.3d 172, 172, 485 N.E.2d 717 (1st Dist.1983), paragraph three of the syllabus. Accordingly, reversal of a conviction on manifest weight grounds is reserved for "the exceptional case that the evidence weighs heavily against the conviction." Id.
In conducting this review, this court remains mindful that the weight of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses are matters primarily for the factfinder to assess. State v. Bradley, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 97333, 2012-Ohio-2765, ¶ 14, citing State v. DeHass, 10 Ohio St.2d 230, 227 N.E.2d 212 (1967), paragraph one of the syllabus. The rationale behind this principle is that the trier of fact is in the best position to take into account inconsistencies, along with the witnesses' manner and demeanor, and determine whether the witnesses' testimonies are credible. Id.

State v. Hernandez, 2018-Ohio-738, 107 N.E.3d 182, ¶ 27-28 (8th Dist.).

         B. Whether Appellant's Convictions are Against the Manifest Weight of the Evidence

         {¶ 10} Mondie contends that his convictions are against the manifest weight of the evidence because there was not competent credible evidence that he committed the offenses and the car he was seen driving was different from the car that was identified at the crime scene. More specifically, Mondie states that the vehicle identified by the witnesses had different tail lights, shape, and a missing hubcap.

         {¶ 11} A review of the record reveals that Robinson and Richard described seeing a white car. Richard stated that he saw a white or silver Sea Breeze or Taurus with a rounded body and the tail light stretched across the body. It was also stated that there was no hubcap on the passenger side of the white vehicle. Robinson described a white Concord or Taurus. Mondie contends that the vehicle in the video had a square or rectangular rear window, with single tail lights on each side and no missing hubcaps. The record reveals that both witnesses were unsure of the make and model, but described cars similar to Mondie's, which was a white Taurus. The surveillance video shows Robinson pull next to a gas pump with a white vehicle on the other side of the gas pump.

         {¶ 12} The video shows Braxton exiting the red car but does not show him getting into the white car because the time stamp is blocking a portion of the video. However, Robinson clearly states that he watched Braxton enter the white car and Mondie return to the same white car and enter the driver's seat. Additionally, the tipster identified Mondie as the individual driving the white car at the gas station on the evening of Braxton's murder.

         {¶ 13} Mondie then argues that even if he was the driver of the white car at the scene, he was not complicit in the murder because he drove away from the scene without the shooter. Mondie contends that this shows that he was not in agreement with the conduct of the shooter. Mondie was convicted under an accomplice-liability theory. R.C. 2923.03(A) and 2923.03(F) states,

(A) No person, acting with the kind of culpability required for the commission of an offense, shall do any ...

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