State v. Williams

Decision Date01 July 1991
Docket NumberNo. 58782,58782
Citation600 N.E.2d 298,74 Ohio App.3d 686
PartiesThe STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. WILLIAMS, Appellant. *
CourtOhio Court of Appeals

Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Pros. Atty., and Karen L. Johnson, Asst. Pros. Atty., for appellee.

Scott Z. Jelen and Pamela A. Conger, Asst. State Public Defenders, for appellant.

NAHRA, Presiding Judge.

The petitioner-appellant, Lewis Williams, appeals the trial court's dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief.

On October 7, 1983, Williams was tried in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and found guilty by a jury on one count of aggravated murder in violation of R.C. 2903.01, and the accompanying specification under R.C. 2929.04(A)(7) of having committed the aggravated murder in the course of committing aggravated robbery. The jury also found Williams guilty of aggravated robbery under R.C. 2911.01 as well as the firearm specification contained in R.C. 2929.71.

On October 16, 1983, the jury recommended that Williams be sentenced to death. On November 16, 1983, the trial court accepted the jury's recommendation and sentenced Williams to death. The convictions and sentence were affirmed by this court. State v. Williams (Oct. 25, 1984), Cuyahoga App. No 47853, unreported, 1984 WL 5289. The convictions and sentence were also affirmed by the Ohio Supreme Court. State v. Williams (1986), 23 Ohio St.3d 16, 23 OBR 13, 490 N.E.2d 906. Williams was denied certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

On April 4, 1986 and June 27, 1986, Williams filed pro se petitions for post-conviction relief which were denied.

On November 20, 1987, Williams, through counsel, filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. In October 1989, the trial court filed its findings of fact and conclusions of law, denying Williams' petition for post-conviction relief. No evidentiary hearing was held. Williams filed a timely notice of appeal.

The Supreme Court of Ohio summarized the relevant facts as follows:

"On January 21, 1983, the body of Leoma Chmielewski, a seventy-six-year-old woman, was discovered lying face down on the floor of her home. An autopsy revealed that the decedent had suffered multiple blunt force injuries to the head and neck, as well as a single gunshot wound fired from close range (approximately two feet or less) into the victim's face.

"Witnesses established that the decedent was last seen between 10:00 and 10:30 p.m. the evening of the 20th, standing in her doorway talking with appellant, Lewis Williams. Between 10:30 and 11:00, the victim's neighbors heard a sound from her house like a door slamming. Appellant was arrested on January 22, 1983 and admitted being in the house the night of the murder, but denied perpetrating the offenses for which he was indicted.

"The evidence produced at appellant's trial established the following sequence of events. Early in the evening of January 20, 1983, appellant and two acquaintances, Brent Nicholson and Tyrone Robinson, visited and had dinner with appellant's cousin, Kevin Samuels. Samuels lives across the street from the victim's house and had known her for several years. Prior to the night of the incident in question, appellant had stayed with Samuels and had known the victim.

"On the evening of the 20th, Robinson and appellant left the Samuels residence, at approximately 9:00 p.m., to go to the store. Only Robinson returned a half-hour later, indicating appellant was still at the store. At trial, however, Robinson testified that appellant was in fact at Chmielewski's house, where he had apparently been invited in. The remarks to the contrary were merely to dissuade appellant's brother, Mark, who had arrived at the Samuels residence, from looking for appellant. Robinson eventually told Mark where appellant was, and the two of them went over to Chmielewski's house where Mark prevailed upon his brother to return some money. Mark left and Robinson went back to Samuels' house. Samuels sent Robinson back over to ask appellant to return to the Samuels residence. Appellant's responses were to tell Robinson he was not ready to leave and to call Samuels and tell him to mind his own business.

"Samuels, Nicholson, and Robinson were driving down the Samuels driveway around 10:30 p.m. when Samuels saw appellant and Chmielewski at her door. They honked the horn, but appellant motioned for the car to proceed without him. When Nicholson and Samuels returned, a little over an hour later, Nicholson went across the street to find that the door was open and Chmielewski's body was on the floor. Nicholson returned to the Samuels residence, whereupon Samuels called appellant's mother's home, then the police.

"When the police arrived, at approximately 1:00 a.m., January 21, 1983, they found not only the body, but also several coins scattered near the doorway, numerous bank envelopes throughout the house and down to the street corner, decedent's purse with its contents emptied on the bedroom closet shelf, decedent's false teeth on the floor next to the body, and the phone off the hook. A subsequent police investigation revealed an imprint on the hem of the nightgown decedent was wearing which matched a portion of a shoe appellant was wearing the day of his arrest. Appellant's jacket sleeve cuff also contained a trace of lead powder.

"In addition to the above evidence, the state presented two witnesses who were former cellmates of appellant while he was confined to the Cuyahoga County Jail pending trial. Michael Anderson and Navarro Brooks each testified that appellant had told them he had murdered the decedent. Specifically, Anderson testified that appellant had said he 'stuck the gun in her mouth' to get her 'to shut up.' Brooks testified that appellant was worried about blood on his shoes apparently from rolling decedent's body over with his foot. After this testimony, the state rested, as did the appellant, without presenting any evidence." State v. Williams, 23 Ohio St.3d at 17, 23 OBR at 14-15, 490 N.E.2d at 908-909.


Appellant's first assignment of error states:

"The trial court erred in summarily dismissing appellant Williams' post-conviction petition without according him an evidentiary hearing."

Williams contends that the trial court should have granted him an evidentiary hearing on his petition for post-conviction relief for the following reasons 1) he raised constitutional errors outside the record, (2) the trial court used the wrong legal standard to determine whether the alleged ineffective assistance of counsel was prejudicial, and (3) the trial court did not have the transcript before it when it dismissed his petition.

R.C. 2953.21 states in part:

"(A) Any person convicted of a criminal offense or adjudged delinquent claiming that there was such a denial or infringement of his rights as to render the judgment void or voidable under the Ohio Constitution or the Constitution of the United States, may file a petition at any time in the court which imposed sentence, stating the grounds for relief relied upon, and asking the court to vacate or set aside the judgment or sentence or to grant other appropriate relief. The petitioner may file such supporting affidavit and the other documentary evidence as will support his claim for relief.

" * * *

"(C) Before granting a hearing, the court shall determine whether there are substantive grounds for relief. In making such a determination, the court shall consider, in addition to the petition and supporting affidavits, all the files and records pertaining to the proceedings against the petitioner, including, but not limited to, the indictment, the court's journal entries, the journalized records of the clerk of the court, and the court reporter's transcript. Such court reporter's transcript, if ordered and certified by the court, shall be taxed as court costs. If the court dismisses the petition, it shall make and file findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to such dismissal."

In State v. Jackson (1980), 64 Ohio St.2d 107, 111, 18 O.O.3d 348, 350-351, 413 N.E.2d 819, 822-823, the Supreme Court of Ohio stated:

"Before a hearing is granted, the petitioner bears the initial burden in a post-conviction proceeding to submit evidentiary documents containing sufficient operative facts to demonstrate the lack of competent counsel and also that the defense was prejudiced by counsel's ineffectiveness.

"Broad assertions without a further demonstration of prejudice do not warrant a hearing for all post-conviction petitions. General conclusory allegations to the effect that a defendant has been denied ineffective assistance of counsel are inadequate as a matter of law to impose an evidentiary hearing."

Generally, the petitioner satisfies his initial burden by submitting evidence of matters outside the record concerning ineffective assistance of counsel. Such presentation of evidentiary documents is sufficient, if not to mandate a hearing, at least to avoid dismissal on the basis of res judicata. State v. Cole (1982), 2 Ohio St.3d 112, 114, 2 OBR 661, 663-664, 443 N.E.2d 169, 171-172. However, in his petition for post-conviction relief, Williams submitted a mass of affidavits and exhibits which were received by the trial court. As stated by the trial court in its detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law, such evidentiary materials did not form a basis for any substantive grounds for relief. 1

Our review indicates that Williams' petition did not provide substantive grounds for relief and that he was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing in view of the overwhelming evidence in the record of trial counsel's competence.

Williams also asserts that the trial court applied the incorrect standard in dismissing his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the mitigation phase. He contends that the trial court applied an outcome-determinative test in ruling...

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