State v. Jackson

Decision Date23 November 2005
Docket NumberNo. 2002-1604.,2002-1604.
Citation107 Ohio St.3d 53,2005 Ohio 5981,836 N.E.2d 1173
PartiesThe STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. JACKSON, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

David E. Bowers, Allen County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jana E. Gutman, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

David C. Stebbins and Angela Miller, for appellant.


{¶ 1} On January 3, 2002, in Lima, Ohio, defendant-appellant, Cleveland Jackson Jr., and his half-brother, Jeronique Cunningham, robbed a group of eight people and then fired their weapons into the group from close range. Three-year-old Jayla Grant and 17-year-old Leneshia Williams both died as a result of gunshot wounds. A jury convicted appellant of the aggravated murders of Jayla and Leneshia and sentenced him to death.

I. Facts and Case History

{¶ 2} On the afternoon of January 3, 2002, Tara Cunningham, appellant's half-sister and Jeronique's sister, saw appellant and Jeronique in her bedroom with a gun. According to Tara, Jeronique was wiping off the gun, and appellant was wiping off the clip, which had bullets in it. Tara heard appellant tell Jeronique that he was going to rob somebody and heard appellant mention LaShane ("Shane") Liles. Earlier that afternoon, Shane had sold Jeronique crack cocaine at Shane's apartment.

{¶ 3} In the evening of January 3, appellant and Jeronique went to Shane's apartment in Lima, Ohio. When appellant and Jeronique arrived, Shane was not home, but several of his relatives and friends were there. Shane returned to his apartment shortly thereafter, and he and appellant discussed a drug transaction. While Shane and appellant talked on the staircase near the living room, Jeronique sat in the living room and watched a movie with teenagers Coron Liles, Dwight Goodloe Jr., and Leneshia Williams.

{¶ 4} As Shane and appellant continued to talk, Jeronique stood up and ordered Coron, Dwight, and Leneshia into the kitchen. When they did not immediately obey, Jeronique pulled out a gun and struck Coron in the face with the barrel, breaking his jaw. When Jeronique hit Coron, appellant drew his gun and aimed it at Shane.

{¶ 5} Appellant forced Shane upstairs and robbed him of money and drugs. Appellant then tied Shane's hands behind his back and forced him into the kitchen at gunpoint. In the kitchen, Jeronique was holding at gunpoint Coron, Dwight, Leneshia, Armetta Robinson, Tomeaka and James Grant, and James's three-year-old daughter, Jayla.

{¶ 6} After appellant forced Shane into the kitchen, he asked Shane for the rest of the money. When Shane said that he had given him all he had, appellant shot him in the back. Appellant and Jeronique then fired their weapons at the others. Once the shooting stopped, the victims heard clicking sounds, as appellant and Jeronique continued pulling the triggers even after they were out of bullets. Appellant and Jeronique left the kitchen, and James Grant heard appellant say, "We have to make sure nobody in there is moving."

{¶ 7} The deputy coroner determined that Jayla and Leneshia had both been killed by gunshot wounds to the head. Jayla was shot twice in the head: once above the right ear and once behind the right ear. Both bullets exited Jayla's head. Leneshia suffered a gunshot wound to the back of her head, and she died almost instantly. The coroner recovered no bullets or bullet fragments from the victims during the autopsies and could not determine the caliber of the bullets that had caused the deaths.

{¶ 8} The surviving victims all suffered gunshot injuries as well. Shane had been shot in the back, and the bullet had exited through the left side of his chest. Armetta had been shot in the head and was in a coma for several weeks. James had been shot five times and had sustained injuries to his head, arm, and hand. Tomeaka had been shot in the head and arm and had lost her left eye. Coron had been shot in the face, which knocked out some of his teeth and caused other injuries to his mouth. A bullet had grazed Dwight's side, fracturing a rib.

{¶ 9} Police found eight spent shell casings, five spent bullets, and one fragment of lead core from a full-metal-jacketed bullet at the scene. When Tomeaka testified at trial, one bullet was still lodged in her arm. Coron testified that he had spat a bullet from his mouth outside the apartment, but police never found that bullet.

{¶ 10} John Heile, a firearms expert for the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, tested the casings and bullets and identified all but one shell casing as .380-caliber automatic-weapon ammunition. Thus, Heile established that one of the weapons used in the shootings was a .380 automatic pistol. Heile also determined that state's exhibits 10 through 17 (shell casings) and 18, 19, 21, and 23 (spent bullets), were all fired from the same .380 automatic pistol. One spent bullet and the core fragment did not have enough markings on them to determine whether they had been fired from the same weapon as the other bullets and casings. No guns were recovered, but the victims testified that appellant had fired a black automatic handgun with a clip and that Jeronique had fired a larger, silver revolver.

{¶ 11} Appellant was indicted on two counts of aggravated murder. Count One charged appellant with purposely causing the death of Jayla Grant during an aggravated robbery. R.C. 2903.01(B). Count Two charged appellant with purposely causing the death of Leneshia Williams during an aggravated robbery. R.C. 2903.01(B). Appellant was charged with aggravated robbery (R.C. 2911.01(A)(1)) in Count Three and with six counts of attempted aggravated murder (R.C. 2923.02(A) and 2903.01(B)) in Counts Four through Nine.

{¶ 12} The aggravated-murder counts each contained two death-penalty specifications. The first specification charged aggravated murder as part of a course of conduct to kill or attempt to kill two or more persons. R.C. 2929.04(A)(5). The second specification charged aggravated murder during an aggravated robbery and alleged that the murder was committed with prior calculation and design. R.C. 2929.04(A)(7). Firearm specifications were attached to all counts.

{¶ 13} At trial, Officer David Parker testified as a defense witness. Parker, who had assisted in photographing and videotaping the crime scene, identified defense's exhibit CC, a videotape of the crime scene. The defense then played the videotape for the jury.

{¶ 14} Appellant also testified at trial. According to appellant, on January 3, 2002, he and Jeronique had planned to rob a drug dealer (not Shane), but their plan had not been carried out.

{¶ 15} Appellant said that he later took Jeronique to pick up a gun. After another discussion about robbing the drug dealer, Jeronique suggested that he and appellant go to Shane's apartment so appellant could pick up some crack cocaine for their sister, Tara. When appellant and Jeronique arrived, Shane was not home. Appellant told Jeronique that they should leave, but Jeronique insisted that they wait for Shane. According to appellant, he and Jeronique had not discussed robbing Shane.

{¶ 16} Appellant testified that after Shane came home, Shane gave appellant a bag of crack cocaine for Tara. Shane tried to sell more drugs to appellant, but appellant was not interested. At that point, Jeronique pulled out a gun and ordered Coron, Dwight, and Leneshia into the kitchen. Dwight and Leneshia immediately ran into the kitchen, but when Coron did not move fast enough, Jeronique hit him in the mouth with his gun.

{¶ 17} Appellant said that when Jeronique struck Coron, Shane jumped up from the stairs and appellant "got scared" and pulled his gun out. After Jeronique went into the kitchen, appellant talked with Shane on the stairs. At trial, appellant denied that he had pointed his gun at Shane while they talked on the stairs. Appellant said that Jeronique had then come out of the kitchen and robbed Shane of money that Shane had hidden in his sock. Jeronique then returned to the kitchen, and appellant remained at the bottom of the stairs while Shane went upstairs alone. When Jeronique found out that appellant was not with Shane, Jeronique pointed his gun at appellant and ordered him to go after Shane.

{¶ 18} Appellant went upstairs, where Shane offered him an ounce of cocaine to get Jeronique out of the house. Appellant agreed to get Jeronique out of the house for three ounces of cocaine. Shane gave appellant the drugs, and he and Shane went downstairs. At trial, appellant denied that he had forced Shane downstairs and said that Shane had agreed to have his hands tied together so that Jeronique would think that appellant had robbed Shane.

{¶ 19} According to appellant, when appellant and Shane went into the kitchen, Jeronique asked appellant how much money Shane had. Appellant told Jeronique that Shane did not have any more money but that appellant had Shane's drugs. James Grant then called appellant and Jeronique punks and told them to leave. Jeronique pointed his gun at James's head and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire. Appellant said that after the third click of Jeronique's gun, appellant's own gun accidentally went off, shooting Shane. Appellant then allegedly suggested to Jeronique that they leave, but Jeronique said that he was not going to leave any witnesses. Appellant said that as he had turned to leave, Jeronique "put his hand politely around the barrel of [appellant's] three-eighty," and appellant let Jeronique have the gun and ran out the front door.

{¶ 20} Appellant said that he had heard one gunshot as he ran down an alley near Shane's apartment. Eventually, appellant met up with Jeronique at their car, and they fled the scene together. Appellant...

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