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Date: 12-23-2017

Case Style:

State of Ohio v. Donald Christon

Case Number: L-16-1266

Judge: Thomas J. Osowik

Court: IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO SIXTH APPELLATE DISTRICT LUCAS COUNTY

Plaintiff's Attorney: Julia R. Bates, Lucas County Prosecuting Attorney
Brenda J. Majdalani, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney

Defendant's Attorney: Lawrence A. Gold

Description: Appellant, Donald J. Christon, III, lived with his mother, Juanita Wilson,
along with her young grandson Delbert Lear, and the victim, Tony Wilson, variously
described in the record as appellant’s older brother, half-brother or cousin.
{¶ 3} In the early hours of June 16, 2015, appellant used a butcher knife to stab the
victim five times in the chest, left arm and back. Appellant and the victim were in the
kitchen when a dispute arose about food from the refrigerator and the slamming of the
refrigerator door. Mr. Lear and Mrs. Wilson were asleep in the home at the time. Mr.
Lear, who was downstairs, awoke because of the commotion in the kitchen and saw
appellant stabbing the victim. Mr. Lear went upstairs to notify his grandmother, Mrs.
Wilson. Appellant left the victim in the kitchen, sat on the couch in the front room of the
house, and thought about calling the police while he still held the knife. When Mrs.
Wilson realized what happened to the victim, she told Mr. Lear to call 9-1-1, and he did
so by reporting the stabbing.
{¶ 4} Upon entering the front door the first responder, Toledo Police Sergeant
Williams, who arrived within two minutes of dispatch, found the victim and Mrs. Wilson
holding appellant down on the couch because appellant still wielded the bloody butcher
knife. Sergeant Williams ordered appellant to drop the knife, and appellant calmly
responded he would not do so until the victim got off him. The victim did so and
slumped to the ground bleeding heavily. Mrs. Wilson continued to hold down appellant’s
arm holding the knife. Appellant finally dropped the knife. Sergeant Williams ordered
appellant to stand up, turn around, and place his hands behind his back. Appellant
3.
complied. Appellant was arrested, and the victim was transported to a hospital where he
later died. The Lucas County Coroner ruled the victim’s death a homicide as the result of
“multiple sharp force trauma” stabbings by another person. Many witnesses heard
appellant admit to stabbing the victim multiple times.
{¶ 5} Appellant was indicted on June 23, 2015, on two counts of murder in
violation of R.C. 2903.02(A), 2903.02(B) and 2929.02, and submitted a written plea of
not guilty by reason of insanity.
{¶ 6} On August 29, 2016, appellant voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial,
and a bench trial commenced. On September 1, 2016, the trial court found appellant not
guilty of Count 1, murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A) and 2929.02. The trial court
then found appellant guilty of Count 2, murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02(B) and
2929.02. Subsequently on October 11, 2016, the trial court sentenced appellant to serve a
prison term for life with parole eligibility after 15 years, as required by R.C.
2929.02(B)(1). The trial court journalized the sentencing judgment entry on October 14,
2016.
{¶ 7} It is from the trial court’s October 14, 2016 journalized judgment entry
which appellant filed his appeal on November 10, 2016.
{¶ 8} Appellant sets forth two assignments of error:
I. The trial court erred in finding that Appellant failed to establish
an affirmative defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.
4.
II. The trial court’s denial of Appellant’s affirmative defense and
finding of guilty was against the manifest weight of the evidence produced
at trial.
{¶ 9} We will address both assignments of error together.
{¶ 10} Appellant argues that he met his burden of proof for the affirmative defense
of not guilty by reason of insanity by producing the testimony of Dr. Babula, a
psychology expert who diagnosed appellant as suffering from the mental illness of
paranoid schizophrenic and opined appellant did not know the wrongfulness of his acts
on June 16, 2015. Appellant argues the trial court failed to give sufficient weight to Dr.
Babula’s opinion while giving greater weight to Dr. Sherman’s opinion that appellant’s
schizophrenia did not inhibit appellant’s ability to know the wrongfulness of his acts.
Appellant urges the trial court erred and should have given more credibility to Dr.
Babula’s opinion because he conducted “a more thorough and complete examination than
the evaluation conducted by Dr. Sherman.” Appellant also argues Dr. Sherman
incorrectly assumed appellant was charged with murder with firearms specifications.
Thus, appellant’s assignments of error collectively argue that his murder conviction was
against the manifest weight of the evidence demonstrating he was not guilty by reason of
insanity because Dr. Babula’s expert testimony was preponderantly more credible than
Dr. Sherman’s.
{¶ 11} In response appellee argues appellant did not meet his burden of proof for
the affirmative defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. Appellee argues that appellant
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admitted to stabbing the victim multiple times. Appellee argues Dr. Sherman’s opinion
and the evidence showed that although appellant suffered from schizophrenia, he knew
the difference between right and wrong and knew the wrongfulness of his stabbing
actions on the victim on June 16, 2015. Appellee further argues if appellant was not
guilty by reason of insanity at the time he committed the murder, “he would not have
presented as a calm, collected individual mere minutes after the offense.” Consequently,
appellee argues the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it judged the credibly of
the experts and, therefore, properly exercised its discretion when it determined appellant
failed to prove the affirmative defense of not guilty by reason of insanity and found
appellant guilty of Count 2.
{¶ 12} “A challenge to the weight of the evidence questions whether the greater
amount of credible evidence was admitted to support the judgment than not.” Flowers v.
Siefer, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-16-1002, 2017-Ohio-1310, ¶ 94. This court has repeatedly
stated that in determining whether a verdict is against the manifest weight of the
evidence, we review the entire record, weigh the evidence and all reasonable inferences,
consider the credibility of the witnesses, and determine whether the trier of fact clearly
lost its way to create such a manifest miscarriage of justice as to require a new trial. State
v. Reynolds, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-16-1021, 2017-Ohio-1478, ¶ 47. A conviction will be
overturned only in exceptional cases. Id. Every “reasonable intendment and every
reasonable presumption must be made in favor of the judgment and the finding of facts.”
Flowers at ¶ 94.
6.
{¶ 13} In this case the trial court judge was the trier of fact by consent of the
appellant. It is well established that the trier of fact has the sole duty to decide what
weight should be given to the testimony of any witness, including experts. Kokitka v.
Ford Motor Co., 73 Ohio St.3d 89, 92, 652 N.E.2d 671 (1995); State v. DeHass, 10 Ohio
St.2d 230, 227 N.E.2d 212 (1967), paragraph one of the syllabus. This is also true for the
defense of not guilty by reason of insanity: “weight to be given the evidence and the
credibility of the witnesses concerning the establishment of the defense of insanity in a
criminal proceeding are primarily for the trier of the facts.” State v. Thomas, 70 Ohio
St.2d 79, 434 N.E.2d 1356 (1982), syllabus. We will not reverse those decisions absent
an abuse of discretion where the record shows the decision was unreasonable, arbitrary or
unconscionable. Flowers at ¶ 59; Kinn v. HCR ManorCare, 2013-Ohio-4086, 998
N.E.2d 852, ¶ 14 (6th Dist.).
{¶ 14} A not guilty by reason of insanity plea must be made in writing. Crim.R.
11(A); R.C. 2943.04. The record shows appellant properly submitted his written plea to
the trial court on September 9, 2015.
{¶ 15} For the Count 2 offense of murder, appellee did not have the burden to
prove appellant’s sanity as any element of that crime. R.C. 2903.02(B). Rather,
appellant was required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence his affirmative
defense of not guilty by reason of insanity. R.C. 2901.05(A); State v. Hancock, 108 Ohio
St.3d 57, 2006-Ohio-160, 840 N.E.2d 1032, ¶ 35. To prove the defense, appellant must
demonstrate “that at the time of the commission of the offense, [appellant] did not know,
7.
as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, the wrongfulness of [appellant’s] acts.”
R.C. 2901.01(A)(14). “Preponderance of the evidence is defined as ‘that measure of
proof that convinces the judge or jury that the existence of the fact sought to be proved is
more likely than its nonexistence.’” In re Z.G., 6th Dist. Erie No. E-12-063, 2013-Ohio
2482, ¶ 31. Appellant attempted to do so by requesting three mental health expert
evaluations resulting in conflicting opinions of criminal liability. R.C. 2945.371(A), (G).
“When from the evidence reasonable minds may reach different conclusions upon the
question of insanity, such question is one of fact for the trier of fact.” Reynolds, 2017
Ohio-1478, at ¶ 48.
{¶ 16} After appellant raised the issue of his competence to stand trial, the record
shows the trial court scheduled a competency hearing. R.C. 2945.37(B). Appellant is
presumed competent to stand trial unless, after a hearing, the trial court “finds by a
preponderance of the evidence that, because of the [appellant’s] present mental condition,
the [appellant] is incapable of understanding the nature and objective of the proceedings
against the [appellant] or of assisting in the [appellant’s] defense * * *.” R.C.
2945.37(G). The trial court then ordered appellant to Thomas Sherman, M.D., the
Medical Director of the Court Diagnostic & Treatment Center for an evaluation of his
competence to stand trial and of his criminal responsibility, i.e., mental condition at the
time of the offense charged. R.C. 2945.371(A), (G)(3), (G)(4).
{¶ 17} Dr. Sherman evaluated appellant on October 23, 2015. Dr. Sherman
diagnosed appellant with schizophrenia paranoia. With respect to R.C. 2945.371(G)(3),
8.
Dr. Sherman opined in a report appellant “is currently capable of understanding the
nature and objective of the proceedings against him and is currently capable of assisting
in his defense.” With respect to R.C. 2945.371(G)(4), Dr. Sherman opined in a separate
report that at the time of the offense, appellant’s “mental illness did not prevent him from
knowing the wrongfulness of his acts.” In a later report Dr. Sherman affirmed his
opinion with respect to appellant’s criminal liability following review of additional
medical records and evidence provided by appellant dating to 2010.
{¶ 18} On October 29, 2015, appellant requested the trial court obtain a second
opinion, which the trial court granted. The trial court rescheduled the competency
hearing. The trial court then ordered appellant to Bob Stinson, Psy.D., a Board Certified
Forensic Psychologist at Stinson & Associates, Inc., for an evaluation of his competence
to stand trial, of his criminal responsibility, and for a general psychological evaluation.
R.C. 2945.371(A), (G)(3), (G)(4); R.C. 2967.22.
{¶ 19} Between December 10, 2015, and March 22, 2016, appellant requested
eight time extensions to receive and review Dr. Stinson’s report, which the court granted
in each instance.
{¶ 20} Dr. Stinson evaluated appellant on December 1, 2015. Dr. Stinson
diagnosed appellant with continuous schizophrenia paranoia. The record does not show
that Dr. Stinson provided any written reports or opinions with respect to R.C.
2945.371(G)(3) and 2967.22 as required by R.C. 2945.371(G). With respect to R.C.
2945.371(G)(4), Dr. Stinson opined in a report that at the time of the offense, appellant’s
9.
mental illness was “severe” and, when combined with “other factors (e.g., his history of
interpersonal conflict with his brother, an escalating argument at the time of the offenses
charged), [appellant] perceived a threat, against which he believed he needed to defend
himself by taking the life of his would-be assailant, lest he and/or other family members
be harmed. Whether this argues for a self-defense, an insanity defense, another defense,
or no defense is for the trier of fact to determine.” In a later report, Dr. Stinson amended
his opinion with respect to appellant’s criminal responsibility following review of
additional information provided by appellant: “At the time of the offenses charged, due
to his severe mental disease, [appellant] did not know the wrongfulness of his acts
charged. Rather, due to his severe mental disease, he perceived a threat from which he
believed, in his psychotic state, that he needed to defend against and was, therefore,
justified in defending against, including using lethal means.”
{¶ 21} Appellant then requested the trial court obtain a third opinion, which the
trial court granted. The trial court then ordered appellant to Mark Babula, Psy.D., a
Clinical Psychologist at Central Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., for a criminal liability
evaluation. R.C. 2945.371(G)(4).
{¶ 22} Dr. Babula evaluated appellant on April 11, 2016. Dr. Babula diagnosed
appellant with “a psychotic disorder.” With respect to R.C. 2945.371(G)(4), Dr. Babula
opined in a report that at the time of the offenses charged, appellant “did not know the
wrongfulness of the acts charged. The information in this evaluation suggests that he was
impaired due to mental illness, to an extent that accurate perception and judgment of his
10.
own behavior was not possible. * * * [I]t appears that his mental state at the time was not
reflecting reality, impairing his ability to judge right and wrong on the situation.”
{¶ 23} The competency hearing was held, but appellant does not include in the
record the transcript of that hearing. App.R. 9(A)(1). However, as reflected in the trial
court’s May 6, 2016 judgment, the trial court states the competency hearing occurred on
May 5, 2016, and appellant requested the matter be set for trial on June 27, 2016. Then
as reflected in the trial court’s June 30, 2016 judgment, on June 27, 2016, appellant
requested to continue the trial date until August 29, 2016, which the court granted
because the ends of justice so required. R.C. 2945.02. It is well-settled that where
appellant did not include a transcript of the May 5, 2016 competency hearing, we must
assume the regularity of the hearing. State v. Grimes, 2017-Ohio-2927, ¶ 20. By the trial
court setting two trial dates at appellant’s request, we can reasonably presume appellant
was found to be competent by the trial court to stand trial. Moreover, the record reflects
Dr. Sherman’s unrebutted opinion that appellant was “capable of understanding the
nature and objective of the proceedings against him and is currently capable of assisting
in his defense.”
{¶ 24} The bench trial began August 29, 2016. Appellant and appellee agreed to a
number of stipulations regarding the authenticity and admissibility of 46 exhibits.
Appellee called as witnesses three police officers and Dr. Sherman.
{¶ 25} Sergeant Williams, a 13-year veteran of the Toledo Police Department,
testified at trial he received specialized training as part of the Crisis Intervention Team to
11.
respond to calls with people who are suffering from a mental illness. On June 16, 2015,
Sergeant Williams responded to a call of a “domestic situation” with “a person stabbed.”
He was already in the vicinity and arrived within two minutes of the dispatch call.
Additional police assistance arrived within two minutes thereafter. When Sergeant
Williams arrived, he found a boy about 8-12 years old, Delbert Lear, outside pointing to
the house where inside there was a mass of people on a love seat involved in an
altercation. Sergeant Williams described the scene he found as follows:
I went in and at that point that’s when I saw three people on what appeared
to be a love seat. Tony Wilson was on the bottom, he was kneeling on his
knees on the floor. Donald Christon was sitting back in the love seat. And
Juanita Wilson was holding down Donald Christon with her hands. * * *
Tony Wilson was at his – at Donald’s knees, he was leaning [into] to him.
It looked like he was trying to hold him down at the legs, hold his legs
down at the time. * * * [Juanita Wilson] was on top of Donald holding his
arms down. When I was approaching, she was asking me please don’t
shoot him, please don’t shoot him is what I remember her saying. And
there was a butcher knife in Donald’s right hand.
{¶ 26} Sergeant Williams further testified as to appellant’s behavior upon his
arrival at the scene.
Q. Okay, so you placed your left hand I believe you said?
A. Yes.
12.
Q. On [Christon’s] hand?
A. Right wrist, yes.
Q. Right wrist. What, if anything happened next?
A. At that point again I asked him to drop the knife. He said he
would drop the knife when Tony Wilson got off of him, Tony got off of his
legs. So at that point Tony[,] it appeared that he tried moving back and he
fell to the ground and I could see that he had been stabbed multiple times.
* * * It looked like in the torso area. There was blood everywhere and I
didn’t know how many times or anything like that, but it appeared he had
been stabbed in the torso area.
Q. You could see blood on this person?
A. Yes, and on the pool of blood on the floor also.
Q. So Mr. Wilson rolls off, what, if anything happens next?
A. At that point Mr. Christon did drop the knife and it went off to
the side of the couch. I believe what happened was I asked Juanita if she
could get up and she did, and I asked Mr. Christon to stand up and place his
hands behind his back and he did comply and took him, put him [into]
handcuffs.
{¶ 27} Sergeant Williams then testified appellant admitted to stabbing the victim
immediately following his arrest and transportation to be booked. The police cruiser dash
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cam video of appellant’s transportation to the police headquarters downtown, known as
the Safety Building, was among the stipulated evidence admitted into the record.
Q. Okay. And you said – well, during your transportation did you
speak to Mr. Christon at all?
A. I believe I did, yes, to some small talk back and forth. When I
first put him in I did ask him what, what was going on and he did mention
to me there was an altercation where Tony had slammed the refrigerator
door and that was why he stabbed him.
Q. So Mr. Christon told you he stabbed Tony?
A. Yes, he did.
{¶ 28} Sergeant Williams described appellant as non-argumentative and calm,
“like nothing had really happened.” Appellant was responding to Sergeant Williams in a
“normal demeanor.” He testified appellant “[j]ust didn’t show any remorse for what had
just happened, just carrying on a conversation.”
{¶ 29} Toledo Police Officer Ellerbrock testified at the trial he arrived second on
the scene on June 16, 2015, and found Mrs. Wilson and the victim holding down
appellant on a couch. He described appellant’s demeanor at the crime scene and
throughout the subsequent booking process as “calm.” He testified appellant complied
with all commands while transporting appellant from the Safety Building to the Lucas
County Jail.
14.
{¶ 30} Toledo Police Detective Mattimore testified at the trial he was called in on
June 16, 2015, to commence the crime investigation. In the course of his investigation,
Detective Mattimore testified, “[w]hen I talked to Delbert Lear he stated that he
witnessed Mr. Christon stab Tony Wilson and then when I interviewed Mr. Christon he
told me that he stabbed Tony Wilson.” Detective Mattimore also described appellant as
compliant and cooperative. When Detective Mattimore went through the Miranda
warnings with appellant, Detective Mattimore testified appellant was able to understand
and sign the Miranda warnings. We note the videos of appellant’s booking process and
investigation interview were among the stipulated evidence admitted into the record.
{¶ 31} Due to scheduling constraints, the parties consented to appellant calling his
sole witness, Dr. Babula, out of order.
{¶ 32} Appellant and appellee stipulated Dr. Babula was an expert in the area of
psychology. Dr. Babula testified at the trial he had a 60-minute clinical interview, plus a
30-minute personality assessment, with appellant at the Lucas County Jail on April 11,
2016. He also reviewed appellant’s medical records, previous psychological evaluations,
including those by Drs. Sherman and Stinson, court records, and spoke with Mrs. Wilson,
appellant’s mother, by phone. Dr. Babula’s diagnostic impression of appellant to a
reasonable degree of psychological certainty was “paranoid schizophrenia” on June 16,
2015, and on April 11, 2016. Dr. Babula testified that appellant’s past medical records
showed appellant historically had periods of agitation and anger and that “over a fairly
short period of time he could then return to a state of relative calm.” Dr. Babula’s expert
15.
opinion to a reasonable degree of psychological certainty was that on June 16, 2015,
appellant’s paranoid schizophrenia “impeded his ability to distinguish right from wrong.”
{¶ 33} Even the court directly questioned Dr. Babula:
Q. How can paranoid schizophrenia affect a person’s ability to
understand the wrongfulness of their conduct?
A. With specifically active symptoms, what the individual is seeing
or thinking does not accurately reflect reality. So if they are – with
paranoid delusion, they are seeing danger, they are seeing fear that does not
exist, so they are getting wrong information in or they are processing wrong
information that they then can’t accurately assess right or wrong because
what they’re working with isn’t accurate.
Q. So it’s like looking through the world with incorrect glasses?
A. Correct.
{¶ 34} Appellee then called its final witness, Dr. Sherman. Appellant had no
objection to deeming Dr. Sherman an expert in the area of psychology. Dr. Sherman
testified at trial he has 40 years of experience with court ordered evaluations for issues of
not guilty by reason of insanity, competency to stand trial, civil guardianship and medical
treatment. With respect to not guilty by reason of insanity, Dr. Sherman testified Ohio’s
statute has changed over the years. “The statute in Ohio deals only with knowledge of
wrongfulness, has nothing to do with irresistible impulses, has nothing to do with
whether or not the act was a product of a mental illness. These are past statutes.”
16.
{¶ 35} Dr. Sherman further testified he had a 75-minute clinical interview with
appellant at the Lucas County Jail on October 23, 2015. Dr. Sherman testified appellant
admitted stabbing the victim for “making a lot of noise, opening and closing the
refrigerator door.” This was the “third [confrontation] in like a year. And what Mr.
Christon told me is * * * that Mr. Christon happened to have a knife in his hand at the
time because he was cutting up some leftovers, and in the course of the conversation he
thought that the victim was threatening him or menacing him or something so he stabbed
the victim.”
{¶ 36} Dr. Sherman found appellant made a bad judgment that was not the result
of an acutely mentally ill person. Dr. Sherman’s opinion to a reasonable degree of
medical or professional certainty was that although appellant was “mentally ill at the time
of the offense[,] that mental illness was not severe enough to have impacted his
knowledge of wrongfulness.” At trial he testified, “As I mentioned earlier, I have no
doubt [Christon] was mentally ill at the time, but the issue with my opinion had to do
with severity of that mental illness. It’s my opinion based upon, you know, literally
hundreds of evaluations of this type and that in order for you to not understand the
wrongfulness of your acts, you have to be very very very sick, and he was not.”
{¶ 37} Not guilty by reason of insanity is when a person is “so sick mentally that
they don’t know right from wrong,” according to Dr. Sherman. An insane person’s “act
is out of character,” usually with no history between the defendant and the victim.
17.
{¶ 38} Dr. Sherman testified appellant’s medical records of his 2010 and 2011
mental illness treatments showed appellant was hearing voices, talking to himself,
irritable and smiling inappropriately. According to Dr. Sherman, on June 16, 2015, the
dash cam video of appellant’s behavior shortly after appellant fatally stabbed the victim
showed appellant acting completely differently.
Q: And you said you reviewed some additional video after
authoring your reports * * *?
A: Which gave strong confirmation to my opinion.
Q: How so?
A: The dash cam video consisted of basically a ride downtown to
the Safety Building. There was one officer which I thought was pretty
significant because if Mr. – if the defendant was acting irrationally they
would have never put him in the car with one officer. The officer was very
very polite, he was very professional, and he was just chatting with the
defendant. The important thing is that the defendant chatted back to him.
It was a perfectly lucid conversation. They could have been two friends.
Nothing bizarre, unusual, nothing that would have confirmed the presence
of a serious mental illness.
{¶ 39} Dr. Sherman was then asked about episodic schizophrenia, which he said is
not an accepted diagnosis in the profession:
18.
Q: And those symptoms or the constellation of symptoms I think
you called it, do they rapidly onset?
A: There are times when they do have a rapid onset but ordinarily
that is a different kind of illness, that’s called a brief psychotic reaction and
that can clear pretty quickly and generally never comes back again. This is
usually in the process of an acute stress, a death in the family, something
along those lines. * * * Schizophrenia, however, that doesn’t go away. It
doesn’t go away unless it’s treated.
* * *
Q: So there was testimony * * * earlier that schizophrenia
symptoms can be episodic, they can be quick onset and just as quickly the
symptoms would dissipate or no longer be present.
A: Well that might – you’re speaking about a sneeze, not a mental
illness here. That’s not the case at all. There’s no such thing anywhere in
[the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric
Association] that speaks about episodic schizophrenia. Now individuals
who have that illness can have episodes of the illness, but these are
episodes that last for weeks at a time, maybe even longer without treatment,
and might get better with medication. Three or four years later or sooner if
they stop their medication it comes back again over and over again. There
19.
are episodes, but again, we’re not speaking about instantaneous things like
you implied. That doesn’t exist.
{¶ 40} Dr. Sherman then testified how a schizophrenic can still know the
wrongfulness of his acts:
Many times they know exactly what the wrongfulness is. For example, an
individual who has a delusional belief that his wife is being unfaithful with
Elvis Presley or something * * *. He might be hateful and mean and
jealous but he knows that killing her is wrong. He’s torn by jealousy. He
might still kill her, but he knows it’s wrong. Again, we’re speaking about
knowledge of wrongfulness rather than product of a mental illness. That’s
an old statute.
{¶ 41} In order for the trial court to find appellant guilty of murder in violation of
R.C. 2903.02(B), the appellee must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on June 16,
2015, appellant caused the death of the victim as the proximate result of committing or
attempting to commit a violent offense, which does not constitute voluntary or
involuntary manslaughter. “‘Reasonable doubt’ is present when the jurors, after they
have carefully considered and compared all the evidence, cannot say they are firmly
convinced of the truth of the charge.” R.C. 2901.05(E)
{¶ 42} In this case appellee sought to prove the violent offense underlying the
murder was felonious assault, in violation of R.C. 2903.11. Felonious assault is stated as
“[n]o person shall knowingly do * * * the following: (1) cause serious physical harm to
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another * * *.” R.C. 2903.11(A)(1). “A person acts knowingly, regardless of purpose,
when the person is aware that the person’s conduct will probably cause a certain result or
will probably be of a certain nature. * * * When knowledge of the existence of a
particular fact is an element of an offense, such knowledge is established if a person
subjectively believes that there is a high probability of its existence and fails to make
inquiry or acts with a conscious purpose to avoid learning the fact.” R.C. 2901.22(B).
{¶ 43} The record before this court shows multiple witnesses testified during the
trial or through written reports that appellant admitted to stabbing the victim many times
which caused the victim’s death. In particular, the record includes Dr. Stinson’s written
report, which provides appellant’s illuminating account of the murder as follows:
Mr. Christon found leftovers in the fridge, set them on the counter,
and grabbed a knife to cut his roast beef. His brother came in * * *. Mr.
Christon was unable to recall exactly what his brother said to him during
this time, but Mr. Christon said his brother was yelling at him. His brother
walked over to the freezer and opened it to find his burger box less full than
he remembered. His brother asked Mr. Christon who had eaten them. Mr.
Christon told his brother that he did not know, and his brother became
infuriated, slamming the freezer closed.
Mr. Christon explained he knew he had not eaten his brother’s
burgers, and that his brother could be angry at times. Mr. Christon’s
brother then turned at him, and “yelled at me like he was going to do
21.
something to me.” When asked what he thought his brother would do, Mr.
Christon said, “Either swing at me or go for my mom or cousin.” Mr.
Christon continued to claim that his brother was becoming more hostile and
he thought “somebody would get hurt.” At that point, Mr. Christon began
stabbing his brother. After his brother fell, he continued to stab him, doing
so approximately 20 times. When asked why Mr. Christon continued to
stab his brother after he fell, Mr. Christon stated, “I didn’t want him to
swing on me or go after somebody else.” Mr. Christon further added,
“Tony’s a big dude – not tall, but he has some weight on him. If I’d
stabbed him a couple of times and let go, he’d hurt somebody.”
After the stabbing, Mr. Christon sat down on the sofa in the living
room, and tried to decide whether or not he was going to call the police. At
that point in time, Mr. Christon’s mother came down the stairs, and his
cousin [Mr. Lear] grabbed her and ran back upstairs to call the police. His
mother called to him and asked him what happened, but Mr. Christon sat
silently.
During my interview with him, Mr. Christon asked, “What was I
going to say? He got in my face.” He further added, “[My mom’s] lucky
my cousin grabbed her because I stabbed Tony many times, and I still had
the knife in my hand. If she started yelling and tried to hurt me, [I]
probably would have stabbed her, too.”
22.
Mr. Christon indicated that he continued to hold the knife until the
police showed up. They removed the knife from his hands, cuffed him, and
took him downtown. When asked what he was thinking about, Mr.
Christon replied, “I wasn’t even thinking about what was going to happen.
It was already done.”
{¶ 44} The trial court judge, who heard all the testimony and reviewed the
evidence in the record, ultimately balanced the conflicting expert opinions between Drs.
Stinson, Babula and Sherman as to appellant’s criminal liability with the following
analysis:
The bottom line is you only need to look at the case from the view of
the sergeant who was there while the defendant was still in the throws (sic)
of whatever led him to stab this poor victim. The defendant’s ability to hear
the statement of the sergeant, demand of the sergeant, to set forth terms
with which he would comply with the sergeant’s demands, and to comply
with those demands once the conditions were met. Once the victim was
away, he dropped the knife. He engaged the sergeant in conversation. In
order to believe Dr. Babula’s position, it would almost have to be
instantaneous onset of paranoid schizophrenia, followed by almost
instantaneous disappearance of paranoid schizophrenia.


23.
In reading Dr. Stinson’s report there was a statement made by the
defendant as he outlined this crime and he indicated to Dr. Stinson that after
he had stabbed his victim, he sat on the couch, went to the couch, sat down
and thought about whether or not to call for help. So if you accept that
statement from the defendant, his mental illness – I would have to find that
his mental illness ceased the moment he ceased stabbing. And I do not find
that to be true.
{¶ 45} Despite appellant’s assertion, the trial court did not abuse its discretion
evaluating the credibility between Drs. Babula and Sherman. In fact, the trial court
ultimately did not rely on either opinion. The record reflects the trial court reached its
conclusion that appellant failed to establish an affirmative defense of not guilty by reason
of insanity by ample evidence in the record from other than Drs. Babula and Sherman.
We will not disturb the trial court’s findings. Appellant’s first assignment of error is not
well-taken.
{¶ 46} We reviewed the entire record in this case and do not find the trial court
lost its way or created a manifest miscarriage of justice in determining appellant’s guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt for each element of Count 2. State v. Reaster, 6th Dist. Lucas
No. L-03-1006, 2005-Ohio-4022, ¶ 53-64. Appellant’s second assignment of error is not
well-taken.

Outcome: On consideration whereof, we find that substantial justice has been done in
this matter and the judgment of the trial court to be lawful. The judgment of the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas is affirmed. Appellant is ordered to pay costs of this appeal pursuant to App.R. 24.

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