State v. Hymes, 19 MA 0130

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtROBB, J.
PartiesSTATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JASON HYMES, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket Number19 MA 0130
Decision Date23 September 2021

2021-Ohio-3439

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.

JASON HYMES, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 19 MA 0130

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Mahoning

September 23, 2021


Criminal Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Mahoning County, Ohio Case No. 19 CR 157

Atty. Paul J. Gains, Mahoning County Prosecutor, Atty. Ralph M. Rivera, Assistant Chief, Criminal Division, Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office, for Plaintiff-Appellee and

Atty. Louis DeFabio, for Defendant-Appellant.

BEFORE: Carol Ann Robb, Gene Donofrio, Cheryl L. Waite, Judges.

OPINION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

ROBB, J.

{¶1} Defendant-Appellant Jason Hymes Sr. appeals his conviction entered in the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court after a jury found him guilty of murder, felonious assault, and two offenses which were merged with these counts. He sets forth arguments on: the admissibility of other acts evidence; sufficiency and weight of the evidence on the element of purpose for the murder charge in count one; prosecutorial misconduct in closing arguments; the denial of a mistrial after a spectator's outburst during closing arguments; and whether the court should have merged felonious assault with murder. For the following reasons, Appellant's convictions are affirmed.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

{¶2} On February 13, 2019, Ryan Weaver Hymes (the victim) went to a bar with her husband (Appellant) in Youngstown. A video obtained from the bar's outdoor surveillance system showed Appellant's lengthy assault on the victim in the parking lot. Appellant's truck was parked directly in front of the door of the bar with the rear of the vehicle facing the door; the bar's camera was pointed at the passenger side. The victim exited the bar and got in the passenger side of the truck. Appellant then exited the bar and got in the driver's seat. After several seconds, the truck rocked from side to side.

{¶3} The victim kicked her door open in an attempt to exit. Appellant can be seen on the passenger side facing the victim. He reached his left hand out in an attempt to close the door, but hit the victim's foot with the door and ripped the interior panel off the door. He lifted the victim's legs and pressed her body into the seat; her foot was lifted all the way to the top of the door frame. He again tried to close the door from the passenger side while facing the back of the truck.

{¶4} At this point, the victim exited the vehicle from the back door; this placed her in a position between the two doors as the back door was hinged at the rear. Appellant grabbed the victim and forcefully pressed her backward into the truck by her hair. He then picked her legs up and shoved her into the front seat. She attempted to latch her feet onto the edge of the truck.

{¶5} The victim was able to step out of the vehicle again, but Appellant pushed her back by the face multiple times. Appellant's brother approached and tried to hold Appellant back while Appellant continued pressing the victim's legs into the vehicle. Appellant seemed to pause as his brother talked to him.

{¶6} When the victim stepped out of the truck again, Appellant roughly grabbed her and seemed to hit her face as he pressed her against the open door. Appellant's brother again attempted to intervene, but Appellant knocked the victim to the ground, grabbed her by the hair and by the circular scarf around her neck, and began pulling her around. Another bystander intervened as the victim struggled to pull the scarf over her head.

{¶7} Appellant punched his way out of the truck as the men attempted to push him into it. He maintained his grip on the victim's hair and brought the victim to the ground while seemingly hitting her in the face. He threatened to hit his brother while the bystander seemed to scold him and the victim sat on the ground holding her nose. After the victim stood up, Appellant pushed her hard causing her to fly backwards onto the passenger seat. She exited the vehicle again.

{¶8} Appellant then can be clearly seen punching the victim hard in the face as she was pinned against the open door. He picked her up and threw her in the air toward the passenger area, causing her head/face to slam into the truck's door frame. He retrieved her from the ground and shoved her into the front seat, repeatedly slamming down her legs, which were in the air.

{¶9} Appellant continued to press the victim into the vehicle. When she stopped resisting, he tried to get the broken passenger door to close. A third bystander ran to the scene from across the street. Appellant appeared to threaten to fight his brother while the second bystander intervened. The victim then exited the truck and held a napkin to her nose. She approached Appellant and walked with him toward the driver's side of the truck. He then pushed her toward the vehicle, and she entered the truck through the driver's door followed by Appellant. She shut the passenger door, and they immediately drove away (approximately six minutes after his rampage began).

{¶10} In addition to the surveillance video, the state presented the testimony of Appellant's brother. He testified he exited the bar to calm Appellant. He described the argument he witnessed as "somewhat physical." He claimed he did not see Appellant hit the victim, but he also said he was struck by Appellant in the mouth during his attempts to intervene. (Tr. 257-258). Appellant's brother phoned his wife so she could accompany him to the hospital as to have his tooth and bleeding lip evaluated. (Tr. 258-259).

{¶11} The victim's twelve-year-old daughter, who called Appellant "dad" her entire life, was present when Appellant returned to their house in Youngstown after the bar incident. She described his demeanor as "mad" and "panicking." He told her to stay at the house and said he would return shortly. (Tr. 310).

{¶12} Appellant returned with the victim who appeared hurt: her face and eyes were red; she was limping; and she was speaking in a low tone. (Tr. 311-312). Appellant descended to the basement with the victim. The child heard "breaking, and boom, boom * * * a lot of noise." (Tr. 312). Both were yelling at the same time with Appellant telling the victim, "You need to stop having a smart mouth" while the victim screamed, "stop, Jason, stop." (Tr. 313). The child was scared.

{¶13} When the victim ascended from the basement, she appeared "Hurt more, like then she had a little more bruises on her." The child told the victim she was departing for a cousin's house across the street. (Tr. 314). Before she left, the child witnessed Appellant punch the victim in the face. (Tr. 320). The child ran across the street in a panic and called 911 at 10:20 p.m. and again at 10:36 p.m. (Tr. 315-316, 333, 500); (St.Ex. 2). She very quietly reported her dad was beating her mom.

{¶14} Officers were dispatched to the residence for a report of a fight; they conducted a welfare check and left. (Tr. 512-513). The child stayed at the cousin's house that night. Before going to sleep, the child called Appellant's phone and spoke to her mother, asking her to go to the hospital. The victim said she was fine and was going to sleep. (Tr. 316). Appellant told the child, "you don't call the police on me. Tomorrow I'm taking that phone." (Tr. 317).

{¶15} As it approached midnight, Appellant's brother arrived home from his emergency room visit and received a call from Appellant, who insisted he come over for some issue related to the victim. (Tr. 261, 280). Appellant's brother and his wife arrived to find Appellant in the kitchen while the victim was on her back on the floor in the child's bedroom. Appellant's brother said it seemed as if the victim was having a seizure as she was shaking, her eyes were open (but not really looking at him), and she was unresponsive. (Tr. 263). Appellant reported the victim had no history of seizures. (Tr. 507).

{¶16} Appellant's sister-in-law testified Appellant appeared very nervous and scared when they arrived at his house. He told them: he was arguing with the victim in the kitchen; she said she was leaving and was going to get her clothes; she ran into the child's room; and he heard a noise like someone fell. (Tr. 266, 283-284). Appellant's sister-in-law called 911 at 12:08 a.m. (on February 14, 2019), reporting the victim and her husband had been fighting and the victim was unconscious. (Tr. 264, 500). Before the ambulance arrived, Appellant said, "Sis, they gonna take me to jail." (Tr. 284).

{¶17} The victim was still unconscious when she arrived at the emergency room. CAT scans showed bilateral acute subdural hematoma (blood clots on both sides of her brain). (Tr. 423, 456). The bleeding compressed the brain restricting blood flow. (Tr. 457). A neurosurgeon arrived at the hospital and found the victim comatose with minimal brain function. Her recovery chances were "very, very small," but the family wanted everything done, the trauma was recent, and she was young; so, the neurosurgeon performed surgery to remove the clots along with a craniectomy (bone removal from the sides of the skull) to relieve swelling. (Tr. 424, 426). He opined the victim's condition was caused by "a lot of trauma" and not by a simple slip-and-fall from a standing height, noting the clots were large and on both sides of the head. (Tr. 428-429).

{¶18} After a few hours at the hospital, Appellant visited the victim's sister to tell her about the victim's condition. He was shaking as he reported the victim was "messed up" and "something bad happened." (Tr. 240). The victim's sister testified her husband grabbed Appellant and Appellant insisted he "never touched her" (while Appellant's brother agreed). (Tr. 241).

{¶19} After the victim arrived at the hospital, the police began investigating Appellant for felonious assault on the victim. They took photographs of her in the hospital bed (while a nurse pointed out various injuries). (Tr. 342)...

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