Fifth District Summary for the Week of 10/17/2011

State v. Beauford: This case arises out of Richland County where Mr. Beauford challenges his conviction for felony domestic violence. At issue on appeal was (1) the admittance of 9-1-1 calls made by his girlfriend/victim and whether they were testimonial for the purposes of Crawford; and (2) whether the trial court erred in refusing to allow motive evidence for the purpose of impeaching the victim. The Court correctly points out that 9-1-1 calls are usually placed as callers face an ongoing emergency and thus are non-testimonial in nature for the purposes of Crawford and its progeny. Further, the calls were admissible hearsay under the present sense impression exception. The trial court also correctly upheld the exclusion of the potential motive evidence. Mr. Beauford wanted to present evidence from the victim’s probation officer to show that the victim had reason to fabricate her testimony to avoid a prison sentence herself. However, the Court points out that the victim testified about her probation anyways and thus, the probation officer’s testimony would have been cumulative. But hundreds of autopsy photos in a murder case where the cause of death is in no way disputed aren’t cumulative.

State v. Yambrisak: This case also arises out of Richland County as Mr. Yambrisak appeals a Mansfield court’s finding of contempt. In June of 2010, mediation resulted in an agreement that Yambrisak would not have contact, including internet postings, with a victim. Approximately three months later, the State filed contempt charges alleging that he posted a blog relating to his case and the victim and the court found cause showing contempt. In this appeal, Yambrisak contends that (1) this contempt hearing was criminal, not civil, in nature and thus his Fifth Amendment rights should have been applied and implemented and (2) the finding that he actually wrote the blog was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Fortunately for Yambrisak, the Court recognized that his contempt was criminal rather than civil and his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself should have been fully recognized. The trial court committed reversible error in forcing him to respond to questions after trying to invoke the Fifth and thus, the finding of contempt was reversed. The Court did not address the manifest weight issue as it became moot after sustaining the first error.

State v. Wilson: This case arises out of Licking County as the State appeals a motion to suppress finding that exigent circumstances did not exist to enter
Wilson’s home. Troopers responded to a severe traffic accident involving several people. However, one of the involved cars appeared to be missing its driver. Mr. Wilson was determined to likely be the missing driver and Troopers went to his residence to find him. Being concerned about the amount of blood found in Mr. Wilson’s car at the scene of the crash, the Troopers testified that there was a possibility that someone needed immediate medical assistance. When they arrived at Mr. Wilson’s house, they observed a key in the lock and a single sliver of blood on the door. So, of course, they decided this constituted an exigent circumstance and entered the residence without attempting to obtain a warrant. After knocking, the Troopers entered the residence. Inside, they found Mr. Wilson passed out on the bed with a plate of unfinished nachos resting on his stomach. Mr. Wilson, who was not actively bleeding, had dried blood on his face and smelled of alcohol. While Wilson initially lost the suppression hearing, a motion to reconsider tilted the scales of justice in his favor. Keeping with the Court’s recent theme of allowing officers to freely enter the homes of citizens based on a hunch (see State v. Mackenzie should it ever be posted online, where Deputies were allowed to enter a home without a warrant because it was messy, indicating there must have been a burglary in progress since another home was robbed two miles down the road), the trial court’s decision finding no exigent circumstances was overturned. Here’s to the Fourth Amendment becoming an afterthought.