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State v. Hester

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

December 26, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
LORENZO HESTER, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-18-626585-A


          Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Brad Meyer, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

          Patrick S. Lavelle, for appellant.



         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Lorenzo Hester, Jr. ("Lorenzo"), appeals his convictions and claims the following two errors:

1. The jury determination in the lower court in regards to Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, and all gun specifications was against the manifest weight of the evidence.
2. There was no sufficient evidence presented to the trier of fact in the lower court proceeding to convict appellant of Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, or any gun specifications.

         {¶ 2} We find that Lorenzo's convictions are supported by sufficient evidence and are not against the manifest weight of the evidence. We, therefore, affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 3} Lorenzo was charged with four counts of felonious assault, one count of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle, and one count of discharging of a firearm on or near a prohibited premises. All counts included one- and three-year firearm specifications, and Counts 5 and 6, which alleged improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle and discharging a firearm on or near a prohibited premises, included five-year drive-by shooting specifications. The state alleged that Lorenzo fired several gunshots at Jaleesa Allums ("Jaleesa") and her three children in an effort to collect a drug debt owed by Jaleesa's cousin, Clarence Cooper ("Clarence").

         {¶ 4} Jaleesa testified at trial that an unidentified man known as "Birdman" claimed that Clarence purchased $400 worth of crack cocaine from him but never paid for it. (Tr. 595.) Janet Cooper ("Janet"), Clarence's aunt, testified that Clarence had recently been thrown out of a group home and had come to live with her shortly before Birdman came to her house to collect the drug debt. Clarence is on disability, and when he became a resident of Janet's home, Janet became the payee of his social security checks.

         {¶ 5} On June 1, 2017, Birdman took Clarence to a bank on East 55th Street in Cleveland to cash one of his social security checks. (Tr. 745, 801.) The bank teller knew Janet and called her to let her know that someone was trying to cash a check payable to her. (Tr. 745.) Janet told the teller that "if they cash the check they're going to jail." (Tr. 745.) Birdman later came to Janet's house on Phillips Avenue in Cleveland near the intersection of Phillips Avenue and East 123rd Street, handed her the check, and asked her to pay Clarence's drug debt. (Tr. 747.) Janet told him "no," and he left. He subsequently returned to the house and again asked for the money. Janet told him to leave her property. He returned a few more times to demand the money and, later that evening, Lorenzo came to the house and threatened: "It's a shame * * * somebody is going to get killed over money being owed." (Tr. 799.)

         {¶ 6} Janet called the police and reported the threat. Officers Benji Gonzalez and Orlando Rivera of the Cleveland Police Department responded to Janet's house. Officer Gonzalez testified that while they were talking in Janet's front yard, two men showed up at the corner of East 123rd Street and Phillips Avenue. Janet identified one of the men as Birdman, but did not know the identity of the second man, who was wearing a gray hoodie. (Tr. 869.) According to Officer Gonzalez, the unidentified man in the gray hoodie "extended his right arm out in front of him as if he had gun and pointed it toward us." (Tr. 869.) Janet and the officers took cover, Officer Rivera ordered the man to drop the gun, and the two men ran away. (Tr. 887.)

         {¶ 7} The next day, June 2, 2017, Janet again called the police because Lorenzo and Birdman were back demanding the money. (Tr. 809-810.) Officer Gonzalez, who was still on duty from the night before, responded to the call. Janet reported to him that Birdman and Lorenzo had returned, but they were gone by the time Officer Gonzalez arrived. (Tr. 869-870.)

         {¶ 8} On June 3, 2017, Janet, her son Brett Allums ("Brett"), and her tenant, Walter Lucky, decided to leave the house to avoid the danger posed by Lorenzo and Birdman. Janet was packing her things for an extended stay at her daughter Jaleesa's house. (Tr. 593, 601.) Jaleesa and her three children came to Janet's house to help her pack. Janet's sister, Jesse Cooper, and her adult children, Dashae Cooper ("Dashae") and Devin Cooper ("Devin"), were also present. Devin testified that when he arrived at Janet's house, shortly before dark, he heard people yelling threats from the convenience store at the corner of Phillips Avenue and East 123rd Street. Devin heard them say: "It's going to go down, it's almost time, going to light that bitch up, and things like that." (Tr. 587.) According to Jaleesa, Lorenzo and Birdman warned that "at midnight my mother and my brother [were] going to be dead." (Tr. 599.)

         {¶ 9} Sometime around 11:00 p.m., Janet and her family were ready to leave the house, and Jaleesa and her three children were the first to go. Jaleesa pulled out of Janet's driveway, turned onto Ingomar Avenue, drove to Lakeview Road, and circled back to East 123rd Street to check on her family. (Tr. 604.) She stopped at a stop sign for three to four minutes and texted her mother, Janet, to find out where she went, but received no response. (Tr. 605.) Meanwhile, a Burgundy KIA Sorento came down East 123rd Street and stopped a few feet from Jaleesa's car and blocked her lane of travel. (Tr. 606.) Jaleesa explained:

It continued to back up. And then I moved around it and got to the corner and that's when I kind of, like, looked over because I heard gunshots too, and I kind of, like, - when I ...

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