Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto
Please E-mail suggested additions, comments and/or corrections to Kent@MoreLaw.Com.
Help support the publication of case reports on MoreLaw
STATE OF OHIO v. STEVEN LEANNAIS
Case Number: 107167
Judge: EILEEN T. GALLAGHER
Court: COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO EIGHTH APPELLATE DISTRICT COUNTY OF CUYAHOGA
Plaintiff's Attorney: Michael C. O’Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Kevin R. Filiatraut, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney
Defendant's Attorney: Mark A. Stanton, Cuyahoga County Public Defender, and Paul Kuzmins and Cullen Sweeney, Assistant Public Defenders
In December 2016, Leannais shot and killed his friend, Anthony
Stanford, Jr., while playing with his 9 mm Glock handgun during a dinner party in
his home. As a result of the incident, Leannais was charged in a four-count
indictment with involuntary manslaughter, using weapons while intoxicated,
reckless homicide, and assault. All the counts included a forfeiture specification,
seeking forfeiture of the 9 mm Glock handgun.
At trial, the state introduced a video recording of the dinner party that
Leannais broadcasted on Facebook Live on the night of the shooting. (Tr. 1054.)
The first part of the video shows Stanford visiting Leannais in his West Tech Loft
apartment while Leannais prepares steaks for his guests. Leannais indicates on the
video that he is drinking Tito’s vodka, and Stanford is seen making himself a vodka
drink. Shortly thereafter, Stanford leaves the apartment and indicates he will return
Meanwhile, Leannais takes the Facebook audience on a tour of his
apartment, pointing out certain items of interest such as artwork and a particular
houseplant. He also shows the audience his Glock 9 mm pistol and notes a skull
decal on the rear of the slide, which he calls “the punisher.” After the tour, two other
guests arrive: John Frenden and his girlfriend, Ashley Karmie. Leannais introduces
them to the Facebook audience and continues cooking steaks for his guests.
Moments later, Frenden is seen in the video playing with a decorative
sword that was hanging on the wall. He disappears from view and reappears with
Leannais’s gun. Leannais warns Frenden that the gun is loaded and takes it from
him. Leannais removes the magazine, racks it twice, and pulls the trigger to make
sure the gun is not loaded. He then hands it back to Frenden, who puts it in his
mouth and says, “Last thing you hear is ‘I didn’t know it was loaded.’” (Facebook
video 1:05:49.) Leannais shows the live round at the top of the magazine to the
Facebook audience and says: “That would have made a bloody mess.” (Facebook
video 1:06:16.) He then appears to place the magazine in his pocket, and Frenden
replies: “You don’t know about the secret clip.” (Facebook video 1:06:40.)
Stanford soon returns to the apartment. For the remaining 13
minutes of video, Leannais cooks two more steaks while Karmie puts makeup on in
front of a mirror next to the dining table. Meanwhile, Frenden walks around the
apartment. He refers to a “secret case” and appears to be carrying something toward
the kitchen counter but returns it to some other location. Frenden picks up the iPad
that has been broadcasting the scene on Facebook Live and turns it off at
approximately 8:45 p.m. (Facebook video 1:19:00.)
The four friends sat down for dinner off camera. Karmie testified at
trial that she does not know how the handgun made its way to the dining table.
However, at some point, Leannais was “joking around” with the gun and pointed it
at her. Karmie testified that even though she believed the gun was unloaded, she
ducked and told Leannais not to point it at her. (Tr. 591.) Karmie saw Leannais turn
toward the other guests and heard a shot. (Tr. 591-592.) Karmie looked up at
Leannais and noticed that his face had “turned white.” Both Leannais and Stanford
exchanged looks of “utter disbelief.” (Tr. 592.)
Stanford ran out of the apartment followed by Leannais. (Tr. 595.)
Leannais returned moments later, asked Frenden and Karmie to leave, and called
911. Officer James Zak of the Cleveland Police Department responded to the scene
just as EMS were loading Stanford into an ambulance. Leannais met Officer Zak
outside the apartment building and led him and two other officers to his apartment
to explain what happened. Officer Zak’s body camera captured the interview on
film, and the body camera video was introduced as evidence at trial. (Tr. 1054.)
Leannais, who had a concealed-carry (“CCW”) permit, admitted to
Officer Zak that he fired the shot that ultimately caused Stanford’s death. He
explained: “We all had dinner, we had a couple of drinks, and we were all joking
around, it was on the counter and we were all joking around with it, I shouldn’t have
it out.” (Body camera video 2:37-2:47.) When asked how the shooting occurred,
Leannais explained: “We were all sitting around, there was no magazine in the
chamber, and I pointed it just joking around. As I was bringing it back down, I
pulled the trigger as I was bringing it back down and got him.” (Body camera video
5:40-6:02; tr. 435.)
Leannais told Officer Zak that prior to the shooting, he removed the
magazine from the chamber and did not know there was a live round in the gun.
(Body camera 10:30-10:58.) Officer Zak referenced Leannais’s CCW permit and
reminded Leannais that the CCW class teaches permit holders to always treat guns
as if they are loaded. (Tr. 438.) When asked how much he had to drink prior to the
shooting, Leannais replied that he “had three drinks,” and later admitted that he was
“buzzed a little bit.” (Body camera video 6:10-6:16; 20.00; tr. 439.) While
examining the scene, Officer Zak observed that the firearm did not have a magazine
inside the handle, but he found a magazine on the kitchen counter along with one
loose live round. (Tr. 430.) Leannais informed Officer Zak that he had a total of
Kristen Koeth, a firearms examiner with the Cuyahoga County
Regional Forensic Science Laboratory in the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s
Office, testified that there are two ways to load a live round into Leannais’s gun. (Tr.
833.) First, if there is a magazine in the gun, the user could load one round into the
chamber by pulling back the slide. Second, the user could load the gun without a
magazine by pulling back the slide, dropping a round into the empty chamber, and
allowing the slide to move forward. (Tr. 833.) Koeth explained that unlike other
gun models, Leannais’s Glock handgun could be fired without a magazine inside.
Koeth also found that the gun did not have a “hair trigger,” meaning that the user
would have to apply some pressure on the trigger in order to fire the gun. (Tr. 840.)
Koeth compared the hollow point bullet recovered from Stanford’s body with bullets
test-fired from Leannais’s gun in the laboratory and concluded that the bullet in
Stanford’s body was fired from Leannais’s gun. (Tr. 848.)
Koeth reviewed the portion of the Facebook Live video where
Leannais took the gun from Frenden and rendered it safe. She testified that
removing the magazine, racking the slide, and pulling the trigger would have cleared
all live rounds in the gun. (Tr. 854.) She explained, however, that “you always have
to check and make sure that there’s not one in the chamber.” Koeth further
commented that gun-safety classes, such as those required for CCW permits,
instruct gun owners to treat every firearm as if it is loaded and that the user should
never point the gun at anything he or she does not intend to shoot. (Tr. 851.) Koeth
also testified that the “number one rule” of gun safety is to always assume there is a
bullet in the battery ready to be fired. (Tr. 855.)
Detective Gregory Cook, a homicide detective with the Cleveland
Police Department, interviewed Leannais as part of the homicide investigation. The
interview was recorded, and the video of the interview was entered into evidence.
(Tr. 1054.) During the interview, Leannais told Detective Cook that Frenden spoke
to him about using the gun as a prop for a movie. (Tr. 1000.) At trial, Detective
Cook compared the portion of the Facebook Live video showing Leannais racking
the slide back to clear the weapon with another part of the video in which Leannais
is heard talking to Frenden about playing a prank on someone using blanks.
(Facebook video 1:13:50.)
The audience cannot see Leannais and Frenden in this portion of the
video, but their actions are heard. Cook testified that clicking sounds heard during
the conversation about using blanks were the same sounds the audience previously
heard when Leannais racked the slide back after taking the gun from Frenden. (Tr.
1004.) He explained that it “[s]ounded like he racked the action back, and it
sounded like it stayed back because when they — at the end, it sounded like he
allowed the slide to slam forward.” (Tr. 1004.) Cook testified that this could have
been the time when a live round was put into the chamber of the gun without using
the magazine because the sounds were consistent with that activity. (Tr. 1004
1005.) Leannais admitted in his statement to Detective Cook that he failed to check
the chamber of the gun before pulling the trigger. (Tr. 1006.) Detective Cook
testified that Leannais should have checked the chamber of the gun when he it
picked up an hour after handling it in a way in which someone could have dropped
a round into the slide without using the magazine. (Tr. 1047.)
The jury found Leannais guilty of involuntary manslaughter, reckless
homicide, and assault, but not guilty of using weapons while intoxicated. The state
conceded that all Leannais’s convictions merged for sentencing purposes and
elected to have Leannais sentenced on the reckless homicide charge. The trial court
sentenced Leannais to two years on the reckless homicide charge to be served
consecutive to the three years on the firearm specification, for an aggregate five-year
prison term. Leannais now appeals his convictions.
II. Law and Analysis
In the first assignment of error, Leannais argues the state failed to
present sufficient evidence to prove that he acted recklessly. In the second
assignment of error, Leannais argues his convictions are against the manifest weight
of the evidence because the state failed to present credible evidence that he acted
recklessly. We discuss these assigned errors together because they are closely
The test for sufficiency requires a determination of whether the
prosecution met its burden of production at trial. State v. Bowden, 8th Dist.
Cuyahoga No. 92266, 2009-Ohio-3598, ¶ 12. The relevant inquiry is whether, after
viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier
of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a
reasonable doubt. State v. Jenks, 61 Ohio St.3d 259, 574 N.E.2d 492 (1991),
paragraph two of the syllabus.
In contrast to sufficiency, “weight of the evidence involves the
inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence.” State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio
St.3d 380, 387, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997). While “sufficiency of the evidence is a test
of adequacy as to whether the evidence is legally sufficient to support a verdict as a
matter of law, * * * weight of the evidence addresses the evidence’s effect of inducing
belief.” State v. Wilson, 113 Ohio St.3d 382, 2007-Ohio-2202, 865 N.E.2d 1264, ¶
25, citing Thompkins at 386-387. “In other words, a reviewing court asks whose
evidence is more persuasive — the state’s or the defendant’s?” Id. The reviewing
court must consider all the evidence in the record, the reasonable inferences, and
the credibility of the witnesses to determine “‘whether in resolving conflicts in the
evidence, the jury clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of
justice that the conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered.’” Thompkins
at 387, quoting State v. Martin, 20 Ohio App.3d 172, 485 N.E.2d 717 (1st Dist.1983).
As previously stated, Leannais was found guilty of involuntary
manslaughter, reckless homicide, and assault that merged into reckless homicide.
It is undisputed that all three charges required the state to establish that Leannais
acted recklessly.1 Leannais argues there is no evidence that he acted recklessly
because he did not know the gun was loaded when he pulled the trigger. He
contends that in order to demonstrate recklessness, the state had to prove that
Leannais knew or had reason to believe the gun was loaded and that he intentionally
pulled the trigger. However, had Leannais intentionally pulled the trigger knowing
the gun was loaded, he would have been charged with murder and felonious assault
rather than reckless homicide. One commits murder by purposely causing the death
of another. See R.C. 2903.02(A). And a person acts purposely when it is the person’s
specific intention to cause a certain result. R.C. 2901.22(A). Felonious assault
occurs when a person knowingly causes serious physical harm to 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.” R.C. 2901.22(B). Therefore, had Leannais known the gun
was loaded when he pulled the trigger, he could have been charged with murder and
felonious assault instead of reckless homicide.
1 Leannais was charged with misdemeanor assault in Count 3 of the indictment, which alleges that he “did recklessly cause serious physical harm to Anthony Stanford.” Leannais was charged with involuntary manslaughter in Count 1, which alleges that he “did cause the death of Anthony Stanford and such death was the proximate result of Steven Leannais committing or attempting to commit the misdemeanor * * * of assault.” And to commit reckless homicide, as alleged in Count 3, the state had to prove that Leannais “did recklessly cause the death of Anthony Stanford.”
It is undisputed that Leannais did not knowingly or purposely harm
Stanford or cause his death. In contrast to a purposeful or knowing mental state,
R.C. 2901.22(C) defines the culpable mental state of “recklessness” as follows:
A person acts recklessly when, with heedless indifference to the consequences, the person disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the person’s conduct is likely to cause a certain result or is likely to be of a certain nature. A person is reckless with respect to circumstances when, with heedless indifference to the consequences, the person disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such circumstances are likely to exist.
R.C. 2901.01(A)(8) defines “[s]ubstantial risk” as “a strong possibility, as
contrasted with a remote or significant possibility, that a certain result may occur
or that certain circumstances may exist.”
Leannais argues there was no evidence that he created a substantial
risk of harm that resulted in Stanford’s death. He cites State v. Peck, 172 Ohio
App.3d 25, 2007-Ohio-2730, 872 N.E.2d 1263 (10th Dist.), to support his argument.
Peck was a tow-truck driver, who was called to pull a tractor trailer out of a median.
When he arrived on the scene, he informed the driver that his tow truck was too
small to carry the load and that a heavy tow truck was on its way. In setting up the
heavy tow, Peck used a “snatch block” (a large pulley with an attached hook) that
was not sufficiently rated to pull the weight of the tractor-trailer. As a result, the
snatch block broke and catapulted into a passing car. The driver of a passing car was
killed as a result of the incident, and Peck was charged with, and convicted of,
reckless homicide. Id. at ¶ 5.
In reversing Peck’s reckless homicide conviction, the Tenth District
Court of Appeals found that the evidence failed to prove that Peck knew the risk
associated with his conduct because Peck was unaware that his equipment was not
sufficient to pull a tractor-trailer. The court held that “[a] mere failure to perceive
or avoid a risk, because of a lack of due care, does not constitute reckless conduct.”
Id. at ¶ 12. Rather, to be convicted of recklessness, “one must recognize the risk of
the conduct and proceed with a perverse disregard for that risk.” Id. The court
In contrast to the actor who proceeds with knowledge of a risk, the failure of a person to perceive or avoid a risk that his conduct may cause a certain result or may be of a certain nature is negligence. R.C. 2901.22(D). Recklessness requires more than ordinary negligent conduct. The difference between the terms “recklessly” and “negligently” is normally one of a kind, rather than of a degree. “Each actor creates a risk of harm. The reckless actor is aware of the risk and disregards it; the negligent actor is not aware of the risk but should have been aware of it.” Wharton’s Criminal Law, 15th Ed., Section 27, at 170 (emphasis sic); see, also, State v. Wall (S.D. 1992), 481 N.W.2d 259, 262.
Id. at ¶ 13.
Applying Peck to the facts of this case, Leannais argues he was not
aware that pulling the trigger of his 9 mm Glock handgun posed a risk of harm
because he believed it was unloaded. However, Leannais and Frenden played with
the gun after Leannais removed the magazine and rendered the gun safe. In the
Facebook Live video, Frenden and Leannais talk about using the gun to play a prank
on someone using blanks. Although the audience cannot see Frenden and Leannais
in the film, the gun is heard being racked in a way that it could be loaded from the
top of the slide rather than with a magazine through the handle. (Tr. 1006.)
Detective Cook testified that a live bullet could have been loaded in the gun at this
point in the video because the sounds were consistent with that activity. (Tr. 1004
When Officer Zak entered the apartment after the shooting, he found
the gun, a magazine containing hollow point bullets, and one loose round on the
kitchen counter.2 (Tr. 430.) Although Leannais previously had the magazine in his
possession when he removed it from the gun, he either reloaded a bullet or left the
gun and magazine accessible to his guests, who could have loaded it. Indeed,
Leannais told Detective Cook in the recorded interview: “I don’t know, I’m thinking
that if [Frenden] cocked it and there was one in the chamber the whole time and I
didn’t check it * * *.” (Leannais video statement 14:26-14:42.) Leannais also
admitted to Detective Cook: “‘The only thing mistaken is that I didn’t check the
chamber of the gun[.]’” (Tr. 1006.) Therefore, the evidence shows Leannais was
aware of a strong possibility that the gun could have been reloaded after he had
rendered it safe earlier that night. We, therefore, find Peck distinguishable from the
facts of this case.
The facts of this case are more like the facts presented in State v.
Gough, 5th Dist. Licking No. 08-CA-55, 2009-Ohio-322. In Gough, the Fifth
District found there was sufficient evidence to sustain a reckless homicide
2 Police confiscated two other magazines from Leannais’s bedroom that contained bullets made by other manufacturers. (Tr. 982-983.)
conviction where the defendant, who had been drinking at a party, shot the victim
in the head while playing with the victim’s gun. As in the instant case, the gun was
initially loaded, and subsequently unloaded. After it was unloaded, the bullets were
placed on an end table. Id. at ¶ 4. One of the guests asked to see a bullet, and the
gun owner handed him a bullet. After the guest examined it, he returned it to the
gun owner, who loaded it into the gun. Minutes later, Gough picked up the gun,
aimed it at the gun owner’s head, and pulled the trigger. The gun owner
subsequently died of a gunshot wound to the head, and Gough was convicted of
reckless homicide. Id. at ¶ 6, 11.
On appeal, Gough argued there was insufficient evidence that he
acted recklessly because there was no evidence that he knew the gun was loaded.
The Fifth District rejected that argument and found that Gough knew the risks
created by his conduct because the gun owner generally kept the gun loaded, and
the gun had been loaded earlier that night. Id. at ¶ 23. Leannais’s gun was also
loaded earlier in the night. Although it was subsequently unloaded, Leannais and
Frenden racked the slide in a manner in which a bullet could have been reloaded
without the magazine. Because Leannais played with the gun after he unloaded it,
he was aware of the possibility that it could have been reloaded. Indeed, his
admissions that he should have checked the chamber evidences the fact that he was
aware of the risks involved in pulling the trigger. Therefore, there was competent,
credible evidence that Leannais acted recklessly when he caused Stanford’s death.
The first and second assignments of error are overruled.
B. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
In the third, fourth, and fifth assignments of error, Leannais argues
his trial counsel was ineffective because they (1) failed to request a jury instruction
on “accident,” (2) failed to cross-examine a state witness about an agreement not to
prosecute, and (3) failed to object to the state’s representation of the law on
recklessness and negligence. We discuss these assigned errors together because
they involve the same standard for assessing an ineffective assistance of counsel
To establish a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel, the appellant
must show that his trial counsel’s performance was deficient and that the deficient
performance prejudiced his defense. State v. Drummond, 111 Ohio St.3d 14, 2006
Ohio-5084, 854 N.E.2d 1038, ¶ 205, citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Prejudice is established when the defendant
demonstrates “a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors,
the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a
probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Strickland at 694.
1. Accident Instruction
Leannais argues Stanford’s death was the result of a tragic accident
and that his trial counsel was ineffective because they failed to request a jury
instruction on accident. However, “accident” is not an affirmative defense. Rather,
it is “a factual defense that denies that the accused acted with the degree of
culpability or mens rea required for the offense, when that involves purposeful
conduct.” In re F.D., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 102135, 2015-Ohio-2405, ¶ 32, citing
State v. Taylor, 5th Dist. Richland No. 2005-CA-0112, 2006-Ohio-4064, ¶ 35.
As previously stated, Leannais was not charged with any offenses
involving purposeful or intentional conduct. He was charged with offenses that
required the state to prove that he acted recklessly. In accordance with the statutory
definition of “recklessness,” the court instructed the jury that
[a] person acts recklessly when with heedless indifference to the consequences the person disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the person’s conduct is likely to cause a certain result or is likely to be of a certain nature. A person is reckless with respect to circumstances when with heedless indifference to the consequences the person disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such circumstances are likely to exist. Risk means a significant possibility as contrasted with a remote possibility that a certain result may occur or that certain circumstances may exist.
* * *
If you find that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any one of the essential elements of the offense of reckless homicide as charged in Count 3 of the indictment, your verdict must be not guilty according to your findings.
(Tr. 1092-1093.) This definition would have allowed the jury to understand that
recklessness requires conduct beyond that of mere accident. Therefore, had the
jury concluded that Leannais’s conduct was an accident, it would have acquitted
him of any charges that required proof of recklessness. See, e.g., State v. Tiber, 7th
Dist. Belmont No. 88-B-28, 1990 Ohio App. LEXIS 1865 (May 17, 1990) (Jurors
provided definition of recklessness could “easily reason that defense to that charge
would be proof by the defendant of accident” since “[t]he phrases perversely
disregards a heedless indifference speak of a requirement going well beyond an
accident.”). Therefore, inclusion of an accident instruction would not have
changed the outcome of the trial, and counsel’s failure to request an accident
instruction does not meet the test for ineffective assistance of counsel.
2. Failure to Cross-Examine State’s Witness
Leannais further argues his trial counsel was ineffective because they
failed to cross-examine Frenden regarding the state’s promise not to prosecute him
for allegedly tampering with evidence and tampering with records. However, had
counsel questioned Frenden about a promise not to prosecute him, it would have
opened the door to the state asking Frenden to review the statements he made to
police prior to receiving any promises in order to prove that his testimony was
consistent with his earlier statements. Reviewing Frenden’s prior statements would
have bolstered his trial testimony rather than discrediting it.
Trial counsel made a tactical decision to avoid the risk of having
Frenden’s testimony bolstered and relied instead on other methods of
impeachment. For example, Frenden admitted on cross-examination he was
dishonest and lost his license to practice law as a result of his “dishonest and selfish
motives.” (Tr. 569.) Frenden also admitted that after Leannais was in custody, he
lied to jail personnel and signed in as Leannais’s lawyer even though he was
disbarred. (Tr. 541.) Moreover, counsel got Frenden to admit that he urged
Leannais to delete the Facebook Live video and that such an act could be viewed as
a tampering with evidence. Under these circumstances, we cannot say Leannais’s
trial counsel’s performance was deficient or that their failure to ask Frenden about
the state’s promise not to prosecute him changed the outcome of the trial.
3. State’s Representations of Recklessness and Negligence
Finally, Leannais argues his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
object to certain statements made by the prosecutor during his closing arguments
that conflated the concepts of recklessness and negligence. He contends the state
advised the jury that there were only two choices in this case; either Leannais was a
“reasonably careful person,” i.e., not negligent, or Leannais “acted recklessly.”
(Appellant’s brief at 38.) He further argues the state erroneously argued that the
person who “locked away” the gun is the “reasonably careful person” who can claim
negligence, and the person who was “pouring drinks” for his guests takes a
“substantial and unjustifiable risk.” (Appellant’s brief, citing tr. 1154-1155.)
However, these statements need to be read in context. Defense
counsel requested and received an instruction on the lesser included offense of
negligent homicide. Accordingly, the court instructed the jury on negligence, as
A person acts negligently when because of a substantial lapse from due care the person failed to perceive or to avoid a risk that the person’s conduct may cause a certain result or be of a certain nature. A person is negligent with respect to circumstances when because of the substantial lapse from due care the person fails to perceive or to avoid a risk that such circumstance may exist. Due care is the amount of care which a reasonably careful person would use under the same or similar circumstances.
The lapse or failure to use due care must be substantial. Substantial is another word for material, which means being of real importance or great consequence. Risk means a significant possibility as contrasted with a remote possibility that a certain result may occur.
In light of these instructions, Leannais’s trial counsel argued that
Leannais was negligent rather than reckless because Leannais had a momentary
lapse of due care when he handled the gun without checking to see if it was loaded.
(Tr. 1145-1146.) In response, the state provided its own perspective on the difference
between negligence and recklessness:
Couple ideas that are important when you consider negligent and reckless. Negligent, one of the things you have to consider is due care. And one of the elements of due care revolves around the reasonably careful person. Contrast that with one of the ideas of recklessness we have, which is the substantial and unjustifiable risk.
(Tr. 1152.) We find nothing confusing or misleading about this argument. And in
making the argument that Leannais acted recklessly, the state merely emphasized
the substantial risk involved in playing with a gun while drinking. In contrast to
defense counsel’s characterization of Leannais’s conduct, the prosecutor argued
that Leannais’s reckless conduct began when he first introduced the gun in the
Facebook Live video while he was drinking. (Tr. 1153.) The prosecutor explains:
That’s when the recklessness begins. It begins there because he’s drinking. He’s got people coming over who are going to drink. And he’s got a loaded gun just sitting around in his apartment — waiting for something to happen.
* * *
How on earth can anyone say Mr. Leannais is the reasonably careful person when he’s drinking alcohol and he’s got John Frenden coming over with [the gun] out in the open?
(Tr. 1153-1154.) Although the state contrasted this behavior with that of a
“reasonably careful person” who makes sure his gun is “locked away safely,” such
an argument does not preclude the jury from finding that Leannais was neither
reckless nor “reasonably careful,” but negligent. The state’s description of a
“reasonably careful person,” was accurate and would not have prevented the jury
from finding Leannais negligent if the facts supported such a finding. Indeed, the
jury received a verdict form for negligent homicide in the event it found that
Leannais acted negligently rather than recklessly or carefully. Therefore, defense
counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to this argument because the
argument was not erroneous and the outcome of the trial would not have been
different if the argument had been stricken.
Therefore, the third, fourth, and fifth assignments of error are
Outcome: Judgment affirmed.