Rule 1: When a defendant claims that the trial court erred by denying a motion for change of venue on the ground of prejudicial pretrial publicity, the Ohio Supreme Court's analysis proceeds in two steps. The Court first determines whether the record shows pretrial publicity of such a degree and kind as to trigger a presumption that the jury was prejudiced against the defendant. If not, the Court determines whether the defendant has established that any juror was actually prejudiced against him.
Rule 2: To challenge the admission of evidence found during a warrantless search, a defendant must have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the premises searched.
Rule 3: Concerning tampering with evidence under R.C. 2921.12, Ohio law does not impute constructive knowledge of an impending investigation based solely on the commission of an offense.
Rule 4: When the murder is part of the felony-murder aggravating circumstance, the nature of the murder goes to the nature and circumstances of the R.C. 2929.04(A)(7) aggravating circumstance. A court may also cite such facts to support its finding that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors.
Appellant was accused of attempting to kill the host and killing her friend during a kidnapping and robbery at host's home. During trial, appellant filed motions to suppress the murder weapon as evidence and to change venue. Both motions were denied. The trial court found appellant guilty of aggravated murder with three death specifications, and he was sentenced to death. Appellant was also convicted of tampering with evidence. On appeal, appellant argued that the trial court erred by denying his motions; that the evidence was legally insufficient to convict him of tampering with evidence; and that the circumstances of the murder were improperly used against him in the penalty phase. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgments.
Issue 1: Did the trial court err in denying appellant’s motion for change of venue on the ground of prejudicial pretrial publicity?
Issue 2: Did the trial court err in denying appellant’s motion to suppress the murder weapon?
Issue 3: Was there sufficient evidence to convict appellant of tampering with evidence?
Issue 4: Did the trial court err in using the circumstances of the murder in the penalty phase against appellant?
Answer 1: No.; Answer 2: No.; Answer 3: Yes.; Answer 4: No.
Conclusion 1: The trial court did not err by denying appellant's motion for change of venue because the pretrial publicity could not be fairly called pervasive, and few prospective jurors recalled the media coverage and it left little impression even on those who did.
Conclusion 2: The trial court did not err in overruling appellant's motion to suppress the murder weapon because his presence in the apartment was totally unexplained. Appellant failed to establish that he had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the host's apartment
Conclusion 3: Evidence was sufficient to convict appellant of tampering with evidence because he burned the clothes he had worn during the shootings and he knew that an official investigation was about to be or likely to be instituted.
Conclusion 4: The trial court did not err by admitting the circumstances of murder in the penalty phase and its penalty-phase instructions did not constitute plain error. The trial court’s sentencing opinion correctly identified the aggravating circumstances of murder.