State v. O'NEAL

Decision Date05 January 2000
Docket NumberNo. 98-147.,98-147.
Citation87 Ohio St.3d 402,721 NE 2d 73
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Michael K. Allen, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and William E. Breyer, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

Elizabeth E. Agar and Roxann H. Dieffenbach, for appellant.


Appellant presents seventeen propositions of law for our consideration. (See Appendix, infra.) We have considered each of appellant's propositions of law and have reviewed the death penalty for appropriateness and proportionality. For the reasons that follow, we uphold appellant's convictions and sentences, including the sentence of death.


We have held time and again that this court is not required to address, in detail, each and every contention raised by the parties in a death penalty appeal. We continue to adhere to that position today. We have carefully considered all of the propositions of law and allegations of error and have thoroughly reviewed the record in its entirety. Many of the issues raised by appellant have been addressed and rejected by this court under analogous circumstances in a number of our prior cases. Therefore, these issues require little, if any, discussion. Upon a careful review of the record and the governing law, we fail to detect any errors requiring reversal of appellant's convictions and death sentence. We have found nothing in the record or in the arguments advanced by appellant that would, in any way, undermine our confidence in the outcome of appellant's trial. Accordingly, we address and discuss, in detail, only those issues that merit detailed analysis.

II Propositions of Law Nos. I, II and XII

In his first proposition, appellant challenges the conclusions reached by the court of appeals in State v. O'Neal (1995), 103 Ohio App.3d 151, 658 N.E.2d 1102 ("O'Neal I"), that he could be found to have trespassed on the premises in question and that therefore he could have committed an aggravated burglary. In support of this proposition, appellant contends that the holding in O'Neal I is in direct conflict with R.C. 3103.04,1 which, according to appellant, provided him with a privilege, absent a court order, to enter the residence leased by his spouse at 4938 Plainville Road.

We disagree. Recently, in State v. Lilly (1999), 87 Ohio St.3d 97, 717 N.E.2d 322, paragraph two of the syllabus, we held that R.C. 3103.04 is inapplicable in criminal cases. In Lilly, this court reviewed the historical implications of R.C. 3103.04 and concluded that the statute "was intended to address property ownership rights of married persons, matters of a civil nature. Privileges of a husband and wife with respect to the property of the other were not meant to be enforced criminally and do not affect criminal liabilities." Id. at 102, 717 N.E.2d at 326. Thus, we find appellant's contention regarding the applicability of R.C. 3103.04 not well taken.

Appellant also argues that the holding in O'Neal I is contrary to law and that it is an "unnecessary act of judicial legislation" redefining criminal trespass. Again, we disagree.

In the case at bar, the jury convicted appellant of, among other charges, aggravated murder with aggravated burglary death penalty specifications, and the separate charge of aggravated burglary. R.C. 2911.11 sets forth the crime of aggravated burglary:

"(A) No person, by force, stealth, or deception, shall trespass in an occupied structure or in a separately secured or separately occupied portion of an occupied structure, when another person other than an accomplice of the offender is present, with the purpose to commit in the structure or in the separately secured or separately occupied portion of the structure any criminal offense, if any of the following apply:

"(1) The offender inflicts, or attempts or threatens to inflict physical harm on another;

"(2) The offender has a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance on or about the offender's person or under the offender's control." (Emphasis added.)

As can be gleaned, trespass is an essential element of aggravated burglary. A criminal trespass occurs when a person "without privilege to do so," "[k]nowingly enter[s] or remain[s] on the land or premises of another." R.C. 2911.21(A)(1). "Land or premises" includes "any land, building, structure, or place belonging to, controlled by, or in custody of another." R.C. 2911.21(E).

R.C. 2911.21(A)(1), when read in conjunction with 2911.21(E), establishes that any person can indeed commit a trespass against property that belongs to, is controlled by, or is in the custody of, someone else. Therefore, a spouse can be convicted of trespass and aggravated burglary in the dwelling of the other spouse who owns, has custody of, or control over the property where the crime has occurred. Lilly, paragraph one of the syllabus ("A spouse may be criminally liable for trespass and/or burglary in the dwelling of the other spouse who is exercising custody or control over that dwelling").

In his second and twelfth propositions, appellant contends that there was insufficient evidence to find that he trespassed on the property in question. Specifically, appellant claims that the record does not support a finding that the Plainville Road property was in the custody or control of Carol. However, construing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, which we are required to do, see Jackson v. Virginia (1979), 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560, 573, and State v. Fears (1999), 86 Ohio St.3d 329, 341, 715 N.E.2d 136, 149, we disagree with appellant's contentions.

There was sufficient evidence submitted at trial for the jury to find that, at the time appellant broke into the residence and murdered Carol, Carol was in sole custody of and control over the home. Carol was the lessee under the lease agreement for the home. Appellant's name was not on the lease. Further, on December 7, 1993, following an altercation with Carol, appellant moved out and began living somewhere else. Carol had also filed a motion for a temporary protection order against appellant. Moreover, appellant admitted to the police that, prior to the day of the murder, he had moved out and no longer lived in the home. On December 11, 1993, appellant shattered the glass in the front door, entered the residence, and killed Carol. Clearly, the evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that, at the time of the murder, appellant did not live at 4938 Plainville Road and that the residence was in Carol's sole custody and/or control. Accordingly, appellant's second and twelfth propositions of law are not well taken.

III Proposition of Law No. III

In his third proposition, appellant contends that the prosecution peremptorily excused jurors based on their race. In Batson v. Kentucky (1986), 476 U.S. 79, 89, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 1719, 90 L.Ed.2d 69, 82-83, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution precludes purposeful discrimination by the state in the exercise of its peremptory challenges so as to exclude members of minority groups from petit juries. See, also, State v. Hernandez (1992), 63 Ohio St.3d 577, 581, 589 N.E.2d 1310, 1313. If a defendant makes a prima facie case of discrimination, the state must provide a race-neutral explanation. However, the explanation need not rise to the level justifying exercise of a challenge for cause. Id. at 582, 589 N.E.2d at 1313, citing Batson, 476 U.S. at 96-98, 106 S.Ct. at 1723-1724, 90 L.Ed.2d at 87-89.

Appellant claims that the state's peremptory challenges against prospective jurors Anderson, Breckenridge, and Cowins were racially motivated. However, appellant has failed to show any facts or relevant circumstances that raise an inference that the prosecutor used the challenges for racial reasons. State v. Hernandez, 63 Ohio St.3d at 582, 589 N.E.2d at 1313. In fact, in at least one case an African-American replaced a juror challenged by the state, and two African-Americans sat on the jury.

Nonetheless, the trial court requested that the state explain, for the record, the reasons for its challenges. The prosecutor noted that Anderson was dismissed because she was "the lowest rated juror as far as applying the death penalty." The state excused Breckenridge because of his "mixed feelings regarding the death penalty" and because he was single and lived at home with his mother and thereby lacked "a stake in the community."

The state challenged Cowins because she was a social worker, which the state felt was not a "pro-conviction" occupation, and because she agreed with the verdict finding O.J. Simpson not guilty despite her admission that she had not followed the case. Cowins also stated that she would not openly deliberate with her fellow jurors.

These explanations are clearly race-neutral and are supported by the record. "`Unless a discriminatory intent is inherent in the prosecutor's explanation, the reason offered will be deemed race neutral.'" Purkett v. Elem (1995), 514 U.S. 765, 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 1771, 131 L.Ed.2d 834, 839, quoting Hernandez v. New York (1991), 500 U.S. 352, 360, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 1866, 114 L.Ed.2d 395, 406 (plurality opinion). We have held that a trial court's finding of no discriminatory intent will not be reversed on appeal unless clearly erroneous. State v. Hernandez, 63 Ohio St.3d at 583, 589 N.E.2d at 1313, following Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. at 369, 111 S.Ct. at 1871, 114 L.Ed.2d at 412. To that end, we conclude that the trial court's acceptance of the state's race-neutral explanations was not clearly erroneous. Cf. State v. Sheppard (1998), 84 Ohio St.3d 230, 234-235, 703 N.E.2d 286, 291-292; State v. Moore (1998), 81 Ohio St.3d 22, 28, 689 N.E.2d 1, 9; State v. Dennis (1997), 79 Ohio St.3d 421, 428, 683 N.E.2d 1096, 1104; State v. Wilson (1996), 74 Ohio St.3d 381,...

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