State v. Adams, No. 79-530

CourtOhio Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSWEENEY; CELEBREZZE
Parties, 16 O.O.3d 169, 16 A.L.R.4th 344 The STATE of Ohio, Appellant, v. ADAMS, Appellee.
Decision Date07 May 1980
Docket NumberNo. 79-530

Page 151

62 Ohio St.2d 151
404 N.E.2d 144, 16 O.O.3d 169, 16 A.L.R.4th 344
The STATE of Ohio, Appellant,
v.
ADAMS, Appellee.
No. 79-530.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
May 7, 1980.
[404 N.E.2d 145]
Syllabus by the Court

1. Existence of the culpable mental state of recklessness is an essential element of the crime of endangering children. (R.C. 2919.22(B)(2).)

2. Failure of a trial court to separately and specifically instruct the jury on every essential element of each crime with which an accused is charged does not per se constitute plain error under Crim.R. 52(B).

3. Where a trial court's failure to separately and specifically instruct the jury on every essential element of each crime with which an accused is charged is asserted to be plain error under Crim.R. 52(B), the reviewing court must examine the record in order to determine whether that failure may have resulted in a manifest miscarriage of justice. (State v. Long, 53 Ohio St.2d 91, 372 N.E.2d 804, paragraph three of the syllabus, approved and followed.)

4. A trial court possesses the authority in the exercise of sound discretion to call individuals as witnesses of the court.

On October 9, 1975, defendant-appellee, Dwight Adams, was charged with the aggravated murder of George O. Walker, Jr., a 2 1/2 year old child. The child's mother, Renia R.

Page 152

Sartors, was indicted together with appellee and also charged with aggravated murder (R.C. 2903.01).

Adams was tried before a jury in a separate trial. At the close of the state's case, the trial court withdrew the charge of aggravated murder from the jury's consideration because the state failed to introduce evidence of "prior calculation and design."

At the close of all the evidence, the court instructed the jury on two lesser-included offenses of aggravated murder murder (R.C. 2903.02) and involuntary manslaughter (R.C. 2903.04) grounded upon violation of the endangering children statute (R.C. 2919.22). The jury found Adams not guilty of murder, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The jury specifically found that Adams' act of endangering a child had resulted in serious physical harm to that child, George O. Walker, Jr. Adams was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of from six to twenty-five years.

The Court of Appeals reversed Adams' conviction and remanded the cause to the Court of Common Pleas for a new trial.

The cause is now before this court upon allowance of a motion for leave to appeal.

John T. Corrigan, Pros. Atty., and Michael P. Kolesar, Cleveland, for appellant.

Fink & Greene Co., L.P.A., Michael C. Hennenberg, and Janet Burnside, Cleveland, for appellee.

SWEENEY, Justice.

The Court of Appeals found plain and reversible error in the trial court's failure to instruct the jury on the degree of mental culpability requisite to a finding of criminal liability under the endangering children statute (R.C. 2919.22).

R.C. 2919.22(B)(2), 1 as submitted to the jury for its consideration,

Page 153

does not [404 N.E.2d 146] "specify any degree of culpability" nor does it "plainly indicat(e) a purpose to impose strict criminal liability for the conduct described in such section." R.C. 2901.21(B). Recklessness therefore is sufficient culpability to commit the offense. The Court of Appeals correctly held that prior to finding a defendant guilty of violating R.C. 2919.22(B)(2), the state must prove recklessness on the part of the defendant as defined in R.C. 2901.22(C). The state has the burden of establishing all material elements of a crime by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Mullaney v. Wilbur (1975), 421 U.S. 684, 95 S.Ct. 1881, 44 L.Ed.2d 508.

As a general rule, a defendant is entitled to have the jury instructed on all elements that must be proved to establish the crime with which he is charged, 2 and, where specific intent or culpability is an essential element of the offense, a trial court's failure to instruct on that mental element constitutes error. 3

In this cause, appellee neither requested an instruction on the element of recklessness nor did he object to the instruction as given. Thus, the Court of Appeals did not properly reverse Adams' conviction on the basis of the deficient instructions unless the trial court's error rose to the level of "plain error" and prejudiced the appellee. 4

We held in State v. Long (1978), 53 Ohio St.2d 91, 372 N.E.2d 804, 805, paragraph three of the syllabus, that:

"Notice of plain error under Crim.R. 52(B) is to be taken with the utmost caution, under exceptional circumstances and only to prevent a manifest miscarriage of justice."

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Consistent with State v. Long, we hold that a trial court's failure to separately and specifically charge the jury on every element of each crime with which a defendant is charged does not per se constitute plain error nor does it necessarily require reversal of a conviction. 5 Only by reviewing the record in each case can the probable impact of such a failure be determined, and a decision reached as to whether substantial prejudice may have been visited on the defendant, thereby resulting in a manifest miscarriage of justice.

In presenting its case against the appellee, the state called the senior pathologist of the county coroner's office who had performed an autopsy on the deceased child. He testified that the child, who weighed 19 pounds and was 33 inches tall at the time of his death, had suffered external injuries "which extended literally from his hairline [404 N.E.2d 147] down to his ankles" in the form of contusions (bruises) and abrasions (scrapes). Internally, the child had suffered hemorrhaging and bruising of the right lung, stomach, intestines and brain. In the pathologist's professional opinion, George O. Walker, Jr. "died as a result of multiple bruises or impacts to his head, trunk (and) extremities that led to associated internal injuries, shock and death." One particularly significant injury, a torn adrenal gland, was caused, in the pathologist's opinion, by "a violent impact to the trunk, either in the form of a powerful blow or a squeeze" greater than could have been suffered as the result of an ordinary fall onto a playground or onto cement. He testified that the child's injuries were sustained over a period of at least several days and that, although none of the individual injuries would necessarily have caused death, the cumulative effect of the injuries was more than the boy's body could tolerate.

The pathologist testified further that some of the child's abrasions could have been inflicted by fingernails or resulted

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from a fall. He testified that either an adult man or woman was capable of inflicting the injuries. The pathologist's descriptions of the child's injuries and his conclusions as to the cause of death were not controverted by the defense.

On the basis of this undisputed expert medical testimony and photographs of the child's body (which were admitted in evidence), the jury could only have come to...

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5635 practice notes
  • Vance v. Warden, Noble Corr. Inst., CASE NO. 2:19-CV-00687
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • November 7, 2019
    ...(1975). An abuse of discretion "implies that the court's attitude [was] unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable." State v. Adams, 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157, 404 N.E.2d 144 (1980). "A decision is unreasonable if there is no sound reasoning process that would support that decision." AAAA Ente......
  • State v. Pilgrim, No. 08AP-993.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • October 8, 2009
    ...or unconscionable.'" Blakemore v. Blakemore (1983), 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 5 OBR 481, 450 N.E.2d 1140, quoting State v. Adams (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157, 16 O.O.3d 169, 404 N.E.2d {¶ 76} Pursuant to R.C. 2929.18(A), a trial court that imposes a sentence upon a felony offender may senten......
  • State ex rel. Gross v. Indus. Comm., No. 2005-1689.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • September 27, 2007
    ...the abuse-of-discretion standard, which requires Gross to show "more than an error of law or of judgment." State v. Adams (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157, 16 O.O.3d 169, 404 N.E.2d {¶ 77} Finally, for prudential concerns, I believe that we must remember that this matter is before us on a mot......
  • State v. Yarbrough, No. 1999-0958.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • May 15, 2002
    ...of each crime with which an accused is charged does not per se constitute plain error under Crim.R. 52(B)." State v. Adams (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 16 O.O.3d 169, 404 N.E.2d 144, paragraph two of the {¶ 110} Appellant concedes that "many of the elements from the statute [delineating aggra......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5624 cases
  • Vance v. Warden, Noble Corr. Inst., CASE NO. 2:19-CV-00687
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • November 7, 2019
    ...(1975). An abuse of discretion "implies that the court's attitude [was] unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable." State v. Adams, 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157, 404 N.E.2d 144 (1980). "A decision is unreasonable if there is no sound reasoning process that would support that decision." AAAA Ente......
  • State v. Pilgrim, No. 08AP-993.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • October 8, 2009
    ...or unconscionable.'" Blakemore v. Blakemore (1983), 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 5 OBR 481, 450 N.E.2d 1140, quoting State v. Adams (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157, 16 O.O.3d 169, 404 N.E.2d {¶ 76} Pursuant to R.C. 2929.18(A), a trial court that imposes a sentence upon a felony offender may senten......
  • State ex rel. Gross v. Indus. Comm., No. 2005-1689.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • September 27, 2007
    ...the abuse-of-discretion standard, which requires Gross to show "more than an error of law or of judgment." State v. Adams (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 157, 16 O.O.3d 169, 404 N.E.2d {¶ 77} Finally, for prudential concerns, I believe that we must remember that this matter is before us on a mot......
  • State v. Yarbrough, No. 1999-0958.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • May 15, 2002
    ...of each crime with which an accused is charged does not per se constitute plain error under Crim.R. 52(B)." State v. Adams (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 151, 16 O.O.3d 169, 404 N.E.2d 144, paragraph two of the {¶ 110} Appellant concedes that "many of the elements from the statute [delineating aggra......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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