Rule 1: A manifest weight challenge concerns the inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence, offered in a trial, to support one side of the issue rather than the other. In assessing whether a conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence, a reviewing court examines the entire record, weighs the evidence and all reasonable inferences, considers the credibility of the witnesses, and determines whether, in resolving conflicts in the evidence, the trier of fact clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered.
Rule 2: The law favors joining multiple offenses in a single trial under Crim.R. 8(A) if the offenses charged are of the same or similar character. Under Crim.R. 13, a trial court may order two or more indictments or information or both to be tried together, if the offenses could have been joined in a single indictment or information. However, a defendant is allowed, under Crim.R. 14, to move to sever offenses that have otherwise been properly joined where it appears that joinder would be prejudicial.
Rule 3: Pursuant to R.C. 2929.14(C)(4), a trial court must engage in a three-step analysis and make certain findings before imposing consecutive sentences. First, the trial court must find that consecutive sentences are necessary to protect the public from future crime or to punish the offender. R.C. 2929.14(C)(4). Second, the trial court must find that consecutive sentences are not disproportionate to the seriousness of the offender's conduct and to the danger the offender poses to the public. Third, the trial court must find that one of the following applies: (a) The offender committed one or more of the multiple offenses while the offender was awaiting trial or sentencing, was under a sanction imposed pursuant to R.C. 2929.16, 2929.17, or 2929.18, or was under post-release control for a prior offense; (b) At least two of the multiple offenses were committed as part of one or more courses of conduct, and the harm caused by two or more of the multiple offenses so committed was so great or unusual that no single prison term for any of the offenses committed as part of any of the courses of conduct adequately reflects the seriousness of the offender's conduct; (c) The offender's history of criminal conduct demonstrates that consecutive sentences are necessary to protect the public from future crime by the offender.
Defendant was indicted of multiple sexual offences committed against two victims. The trial court granted the state’s motion to consolidate the two cases and thereafter convicted defendant of 4 counts of rape against one victim and 15 counts of rape against another victim. All sentences were ordered consecutively for a total stated prison term of 161 years. Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred in (1) denying his Rule 29 motion as the evidence presented was insufficient to conclude that guilt had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt;(2) granting the state’s motion to consolidate the two indictments; and (3) imposing 161-year sentence that was disproportionate to the danger defendant posed to the public. The appellate court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Issue 1: Was the evidence presented by the state sufficient to sustain the majority of defendant’s convictions in multiple sexual offences committed against two victims?
Issue 2: Did the trial court err in granting the state’s motion to consolidate the two indictments involving multiple sexual offences against two victims?
Issue 3: Was the trial court’s imposition of 161-year sentence against defendant disproportionate, excessive and not necessary to protect the public?
Answer 1: Yes.; Answer 2: No.; Answer 3: No.
Conclusion 1: Sufficient evidence was presented to sustain the majority of the convictions, and those convictions were not against the manifest weight of the evidence, which included the victim's testimony regarding various occurrences of sexual abuse by defendant in various locations of the house where the two lived. However, defendant's conviction for one of the sexual abuse counts in which he allegedly showed the victim gay pornography prior to engaging in anal sex was reversed, as the state failed to present testimony as to alleged episode.
Conclusion 2: The trial court did not err in denying defendant's request for severance where each count was simple and direct and appellant failed to show that joinder was prejudicial.
Conclusion 3: Consecutive sentences under R.C. 2929.14(C)(4) were supported by findings regarding the seriousness of the charges and need to protect the public. Since the appellate court vacated defendant’s conviction and sentence on one of the sexual abuse counts, the trial’s court’s judgment was reversed and remanded the matter for resentencing. In all other respects, the trial court's judgment on the remaining convictions was affirmed.