State v. Taylor

Decision Date17 July 2014
Docket NumberNo. 100315,100315
Citation2014 Ohio 3134
CourtOhio Court of Appeals




Criminal Appeal from the

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas

Case No. CR-12-569276

BEFORE: Blackmon, J., Jones, P.J., and E.T. Gallagher, J.-i-


Joseph V. Pagano


Timothy J. McGinty

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor

By: Gregory Mussman

Karrie D. Howard

Assistant County Prosecutors


{¶1} Appellant Michael P. Taylor appeals his convictions, sentence, and classification as a Tier III sexual offender. Taylor assigns the following errors for our review:

I. The trial court erred when it denied appellant's motion for acquittal under Crim.R. 29 because the state failed to present sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the elements necessary to support the convictions.

II. Appellant's convictions are against the manifest weight of the evidence.

III. Appellant was deprived of due process and a fair trial in violation of his state and federal constitutional rights when the trial court allowed a representative from victim impact to stand by a witness/victim during her trial testimony over appellant's objection.

IV. The trial court erred by denying appellant's motion for mistrial and for providing an inadequate curative instruction during trial.

V. Appellant's sentence is contrary to law and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

VI. The trial court erred by instructing the jury that it could find appellant to be a sexual offender over appellant's objection.

VII. The trial court erred by ordering appellant to pay costs.

{¶2} Having reviewed the record and pertinent law, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for resentencing. The apposite facts follow.

{¶3} On March 12, 2013, the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury indicted Taylor on four counts of rape with sexually violent predator specifications attached, three countsof kidnapping with sexual motivation and sexual violent predator specifications attached, one count of gross sexual imposition, and one count of intimidation of a crime witness. Taylor pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment, and after several pretrials, a jury trial commenced.

Jury Trial

{¶4} At trial, the state presented the testimony of nine witnesses including E.W.,1 who was 17 at the time of trial. E.W. testified that Taylor is her first cousin, the son of her Uncle Mike, and was a frequent visitor to her home.

{¶5} E.W. testified that around October 10-11, 2012, she stayed home from school because she was feeling sick. E.W. stated that between 4:00-5:00 p.m., two of her sisters, who were at home at the time, left to pick up one of the sister's children from daycare. As they were leaving, one of the sisters asked E.W. to come and lock the front door. E.W. started to lock the door when Taylor entered and said something about needing to use a phone charger.

{¶6} E.W. stated that moments after entering the house, Taylor began "touching, feeling, and grabbing her." As E.W. stated that despite her protest, Taylor continued to touch her neck and grab her buttocks, as they fell against a chair and eventually landed on the floor. As E.W. continued to protest, Taylor proceeded to pull down her pants, inserted his finger and then his penis into her vagina. E.W. said that Taylor was wearinga condom, but she did not see when he put it on his penis. E.W. said that after a while, Taylor got up, stood over her and just stared.

{¶7} E.W. stated that Taylor threatened to "do something" to her and her mother if she told anyone, and then he left. E.W. immediately went to the bathroom, washed between her legs with soap and water and then changed her clothes.

{¶8} E.W.'s sisters returned shortly after Taylor left. An hour later, she told the younger of the two sisters that Taylor had raped her while they had gone to collect the children from the daycare. E.W. stated that they telephoned their oldest sister, who did not live with them, and she contacted the police.

{¶9} The police arrived shortly thereafter and questioned E.W. about the incident. Later, E.W. was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she was examined by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner ("SANE") and had a rape kit completed.

{¶10} E.W. also testified that approximately two weeks prior to the above incident, she was at the home of her eldest sister when Taylor offered to drive her home. E.W. stated that when they left, Taylor drove in a completely different direction from the route to her house and eventually traveled to the city of Shaker Heights, Ohio. Taylor pulled into a driveway, asked if E.W. wanted to smoke marijuana, began touching her private area, and then pulled out his penis. Amidst her protest, Taylor kept touching her private area and eventually inserted his finger into her vagina. Taylor eventually drove her home after she kept pushing his hands away.

{¶11} E.W.'s sister, E.W.1, testified that she and all her siblings' first names begin with the letter "E." E.W.1 stated that she has known Taylor all her life and that he came to their house on a regular basis. On the day in question, Taylor entered the house as she and an older sister were leaving to get the children from daycare.

{¶12} E.W.1 testified that when they returned from the daycare, Taylor opened the door for them and walked towards his vehicle that was parked in the driveway. When E.W.1 entered the house, E.W. was in the bathroom with the door locked. When she emerged, E.W. looked sad, was not talking, and was not upbeat. E.W.1 stated that moments later, E.W. began crying and indicated that Taylor had raped her in their absence. E.W.1 immediately called their older sister, who contacted the police.

{¶13} E.W.1 testified that Taylor raped her on three separate occasions between 2007 and 2008. E.W.1 testified that the first time, Taylor came down to the basement where she was doing laundry, began kissing the back of her neck, then despite protestations, pulled down her shorts and raped her. E.W.1 stated that Taylor pulled out his penis, before ejaculating, when he heard a family friend coming down the steps.

{¶14} E.W.1 testified that the other two times, Taylor raped her in his truck when her mother had asked her to go to the store with him. E.W.1 stated that she always protested, but to no avail. E.W.1 told her mother, but Taylor always denied it, so nothing was done.

{¶15} Detective Elaine Evans, assigned to Cleveland Police Department's Sex Crime and Child Abuse Unit, testified that she was assigned to the case the day after theincident. Detective Evans obtained statements from both E.W. and E.W.1, as well as other family members. Detective Evans also spoke via telephone with Taylor and made an appointment for him to come to her office, but he never appeared.

{¶16} Following the state's case in chief, Taylor motioned the trial court for acquittal, but it was denied, and Taylor proceeded to testify in his own defense, denying all accusations. Taylor testified that on October 10, 2012, he had been drinking hard liquor and smoking marijuana with his friend Kenyatta Hines. Taylor stated that he and Hines drove to E.W.'s home to recharge his cell phone. Taylor said that he went in the house, plugged in the phone, and went back outside to sit in the car. He stated that approximately 15 minutes later, he went back to retrieve his phone, spoke briefly with E.W., and then left.

{¶17} Hines testified that she had been drinking and smoking marijuana with Taylor on the date in question. Hines stated that Taylor was only in the house with E.W. for about two minutes when he went to place the phone on the charger. Hines testified that when Taylor went to retrieve the phone, he came back out immediately.

{¶18} The jury found Taylor not guilty of counts one through four, but guilty of counts five through nine. The jury also found Taylor guilty of the sexual motivation and sexually violent predator specification.

{¶19} At sentencing, because some of the charges were allied offenses, the state elected to proceed on counts five, seven, and nine. The trial court imposed an 11 year sentence on count five, kidnapping with sexual motivation and sexually violent predatorspecification, 10-years-to-life on count seven, kidnapping with sexual motivation and sexually violent predator specification, and 36 months on count nine, intimidation of a crime victim or witness. The trial court ordered that Taylor serve the sentences consecutively.

Sufficiency of Evidence

{¶20} In the first assigned error, Taylor argues that his motion for acquittal should have been granted because the state failed to present sufficient evidence of the elements necessary to support the convictions.

{¶21} Crim.R. 29 mandates that the trial court issue a judgment of acquittal where the prosecution's evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction for the offense. Crim.R. 29(A) and sufficiency of evidence review require the same analysis. Cleveland v. Pate, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 99321, 2013-Ohio-5571, citing State v. Mitchell, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 95095, 2011-Ohio-1241.

{¶22} A challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a conviction requires the court to determine whether the prosecution has met its burden of production at trial. State v. Givan, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 94609, 2011-Ohio-100, citing State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 1997-Ohio-52, 678 N.E.2d 541. On review for sufficiency, courts are to assess not whether the prosecution's evidence is to be believed, but whether, if believed, the evidence against a defendant would support a conviction. Id. {¶23} The relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational...

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