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STATE OF OHIO v. DEVAUGHNTE RICE
Case Number: 109712
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
Cleveland, Ohio - Criminal defense attorney represented Devaughnte Rice with a weapons while under disability charge.
In January 2019, Rice and his codefendants, David Wagner (“Wagner”)
and Richard Pinson, Jr. (“Pinson”), were named in a 12-count indictment, charging
them with aggravated murder in violation of R.C. 2903.01(B), (Count 1); attempted
murder in violation of R.C. 2923.02 and R.C. 2903.02(A) (Count 2); felonious
assault in violation of R.C. 2903.11(A)(2) (Count 3); felonious assault in violation of
R.C. 2903.11(A)(1) (Count 4); murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02(B) (Count 5);
aggravated robbery in violation of R.C. 2911.01(A)(1) (Count 6); robbery in violation
of R.C. 2911.02(A)(1) (Count 7); kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(2)
(Count 8); grand theft in violation of R.C. 2913.02(A)(1) (Count 9); and having
weapons while under disability in violation of R.C. 2923.13(A)(2) (Counts 10, 11, 12).
Counts 1-9 carried a repeat violent offender specification and one-year, three-year,
and 54-month firearm specifications. Count 10, which pertained to Rice
individually, carried three-year and 54-month firearm specifications.
In March 2020, Rice waived his right to a jury trial on the having
weapons while under disability offense charged in Count 10 of the indictment, as well as all repeat violent offender specifications and 54-month firearm
specifications. The matter proceeded to a jury trial on the remaining offenses and
the following facts were adduced.
On September 5, 2018, Ronnal White (“White”) shot and killed
Deandre Wilson (“Wilson”) in self-defense. Detective Kevin Fischbach (Det.
Fischbach) of the Cleveland Police Department was assigned to investigate the
shooting death of Wilson. Relevant to this appeal, the incident was captured by
surveillance cameras located in the apartment complex. The video was played for
the jury while Det. Fischbach identified persons of interest and described events as
The video shows that at approximately 10:00 p.m., two vehicles pulled
into the apartment complex’s parking lot and parked next to one another. Wagner,
Wilson, and Rice exited the first vehicle, a 2015 Ford Fusion. Pinson and an
unidentified male exited the second vehicle. The men stood near the parked vehicles
and conversed with each other and unidentified individuals who passed through the
White arrived at the apartment complex at approximately 10:19 p.m.
and parked his company van near an area where Wagner and Wilson were standing.
White testified that when he exited his van, Wagner and Wilson began conversing
with him about a variety of topics, including his employment with a television and
internet company. During this conversation, Wilson made a hand gesture towards
Rice at approximately 10:24 p.m. Rice, who was standing several feet away near the Ford Fusion, walked over to Wilson and retrieved something from Wilson’s hand,
presumably car keys. Rice then walked back to the Ford Fusion and got into the
driver’s seat of the vehicle. Several seconds after entering the vehicle, Rice began to
flash the vehicle’s headlights, repeatedly, while Wagner and Wilson surrounded
White. At approximately 10:25 p.m., Wagner grabbed White from behind and began
pushing him towards the center of the parking lot. As this was occurring, Pinson
reached into the driver’s side window of the Ford Fusion, where Rice was sitting,
and turned on the vehicle’s headlights. The headlights illuminated the assault as it
occurred in the middle of the parking lot.
Ultimately, the struggle between White, Wagner, and Wilson caused
the three men to fall into a grassy area that was located just in front of where White’s
van was parked. Consistent with White’s testimony at trial, the video shows White
being held down as Wagner and an unidentified male removed items from his
person. The video also depicts Pinson and the unidentified male enter White’s van.
While the physical assault of White was occurring, Rice pulled the Ford Fusion
forward and stopped the vehicle in a position facing the parking lot’s exit.
White testified that at some point during the incident, a Kahr Arms .40
Smith and Wesson caliber pistol fell out of his front pants pocket. White stated that
Wagner immediately picked up the gun and began striking him with the weapon.
White, however, was in possession of a second firearm, a Metro Arms .45 ACP
Bobcut Model 1911 caliber pistol, which he used to shoot and kill Wilson in selfdefense at approximately 10:28:06 p.m. After Wilson was shot, he ran towards the apartment complex for
safety. At the same time, Wagner, Pinson, and the unidentified male fled to the
vehicle Pinson had arrived in earlier that evening. The video footage showed
Wagner return gunfire towards White as he ran towards Pinson’s vehicle. During
the exchange of gunfire, Rice began to flee the parking lot in the Ford Fusion.
However, before he exited the parking lot, Rice suddenly put the Ford Fusion in
reverse and drove backwards, towards Pinson’s vehicle. Once Rice ensured that
Wagner, Pinson, and the unidentified male were safely inside Pinson’s vehicle, he
fled the scene, alone, in the Ford Fusion at approximately 10:28 p.m. Pinson’s
vehicle immediately followed the Ford Fusion out of the parking lot.
White, who had a concealed carry permit, called the police and
remained at the scene. During the subsequent police investigation into the shooting,
White identified Wagner and Pinson in a photo array as the two other individuals
involved in his robbery. He did not identify Rice as a perpetrator.
In the course of his investigation, Det. Fischbach also processed
evidence from the crime scene. Det. Fischbach testified that there was a total of 16
spent shell casings and three bullet fragments recovered from three separate areas
connected to the shooting, including (1) the area near White’s van, (2) the area where
Wilson retreated to and was treated by emergency medical personnel, and (3) a
nearby cul-de-sac where additional shots were fired at White. In addition, the police
recovered the .45 caliber handgun used by White during the altercation. Detective Mark Peoples (“Det. Peoples”) of the Cleveland Police
Department testified that he responded to the scene of the shooting. In the course
of his investigation, Det. Peoples collected and photographed relevant evidence.
Relevant to this appeal, Det. Peoples testified that he recovered two spent bullet
fragments and four spent .380 cases near the van. Approximately ten feet or less
away from the van, Det. Peoples recovered six spent .45 cases in a grassy area. Near
the cul-de-sac area referred to by Det. Fischbach, Det. Peoples recovered three spent
.40 cases and three spent .380 cases.
Juelia Haywood (“Haywood”) testified that on the day of the shooting,
her boyfriend, Wilson, and his friends, Wagner, Pinson, and Rice were at the home
she shared with Wilson. At some point, Wilson asked Haywood to borrow her Ford
Fusion vehicle so that he and his friends could go to the liquor store. Haywood
explained that it was not unusual for Wilson to use her vehicle. Haywood testified
that she did not see Wilson again until she received a phone call notifying her that
Wilson had been transported to a hospital as a result of his gunshot injuries.
Haywood testified that her Ford Fusion was later retrieved from an unknown
location by her brother’s girlfriend. Upon examination of her vehicle, Haywood
discovered three guns inside the trunk. Haywood testified that she did not touch the
guns and immediately contacted the police. Her vehicle and the discovered guns
were confiscated by the police for further examination. One of the three firearms
recovered from the trunk of the Ford Fusion was the .40 caliber firearm taken from
White during the robbery. (Tr. 931.) Subsequent forensic testing also confirmed that Rice’s DNA matched a profile taken from a swab of the rear passenger door
panel of Haywood’s vehicle. (Tr. 842-843.)
Ballistics expert, James Kooser (“Kooser”), testified that in
preparation for trial he tested various items recovered during the course of the
investigation in this case. Kooser confirmed that the Metro Arms .45 caliber
handgun recovered from White after the shooting was operable. In addition, Kooser
confirmed the operability of the three guns recovered from the trunk of Haywood’s
vehicle — a Ruger .45 ACP caliber pistol, a Cobra .38o ACP caliber pistol, and a Kahr
Arms .40 Smith & Wesson caliber pistol. (Tr. 567-571.) Kooser testified that he also
tested various spent casings recovered at the scene. He confirmed that four of the
spent .380 caliber casings were fired from the recovered Cobra .380 caliber
handgun. (Tr. 578-582.) He also confirmed that three spent .40 caliber cases were
fired from the recovered Kahr Arms .40 caliber handgun and that six spent .45
caliber cases were fired by the Metro Arms .45 caliber handgun. (Tr. 582, 584.)
Following Rice’s arrest, he placed a phone call to his mother,
Demarlah Perkins (“Perkins”), from inside jail on the day his trial was scheduled to
begin. During this phone call, Rice informed Perkins that “nobody jumped into the
car he was in.” (Tr. 744.) During a later portion of the phone call, which was
recorded and played for the jury, Rice explained to Perkins that White could not
identify him and that Wagner and Pinson had fled the scene in a different vehicle
than the one he was sitting inside during the incident. At the conclusion of trial, the trial court dismissed Count 1, aggravated
murder, pursuant to Crim.R. 29. Thereafter, the jury found Rice not guilty of Counts
2-9 and their accompanying specifications. The trial court, however, found Rice
guilty of having weapons while under disability, as charged in Count 10 of the
indictment, and the accompanying firearm specifications. In rendering its verdict,
the trial court acknowledged Rice’s jailhouse phone call to his mother, during which
Rice placed himself at the scene of the robbery. At sentencing, the trial court
imposed an aggregate 85-month prison term.
Rice now appeals from his conviction.
II. Law and Analysis
A. Sufficiency of the Evidence
In his first assignment of error, Rice argues his conviction for having
weapons while under disability was not supported by sufficient evidence. Rice
contends that while there were guns discovered inside the trunk of the vehicle he
had driven, “there is no evidence indicating that he put them there, that they were
put there while he was in possession of the car, or that he knew they were there.”
“[T]he 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, ¶ 13. “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. The state may use direct evidence, circumstantial
evidence, or both, in order to establish the elements of a crime. See State v. Durr,
58 Ohio St.3d 86, 568 N.E.2d 674 (1991). Circumstantial evidence is “proof of facts
or circumstances by direct evidence from which the trier of fact may reasonably infer
other related or connected facts that naturally or logically follow.” State v. Seals,
8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 101081, 2015-Ohio-517, ¶ 32.
In this case, Rice was convicted of having weapons while under
disability in violation of R.C. 2923.13(A)(2). The statute provides, in relevant part:
[u]nless relieved from disability under operation of law or legal process,
no person shall knowingly acquire, have, carry, or use any firearm or
dangerous ordnance, if * * * [t]he person is under indictment for or has
been convicted of any felony offense of violence or has been adjudicated
a delinquent child for the commission of an offense that, if committed
by an adult, would have been a felony offense of violence.
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. A person has knowledge of
circumstances when the person is aware that such circumstances
probably exist. 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
On appeal, Rice does not dispute that he was under disability based
on his prior convictions for robbery and felonious assault in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR14-587937-C. Rather, Rice asserts that his having weapons while under disability
conviction must be reversed because he was merely present at the scene of the shooting, and did not knowingly acquire, have, or use any of the firearms that were
eventually discovered inside the Ford Fusion.
To “have” a firearm within the meaning of R.C. 2923.13(A), a person
must have actual or constructive possession of it. State v. Davis, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga
No. 104221, 2016-Ohio-7964, ¶ 13, citing State v. Adams, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No.
93513, 2010-Ohio-4478, ¶ 19.
Actual possession is ownership or physical control. State v. Jones, 8th
Dist. Cuyahoga No. 101311, 2015-Ohio-1818, ¶ 46. In contrast, constructive
possession exists when an individual knowingly exercises dominion and control
over an object, even though that object may not be within his or her immediate
physical possession. State v. Wolery, 46 Ohio St.2d 316, 329, 348 N.E.2d 351
(1976); State v. Washington, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga Nos. 98882 and 98883, 2013-
Ohio-2904, ¶ 22. “[C]ircumstantial evidence is sufficient to support the element of
constructive possession.” State v. Brooks, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 94978, 2011-
Ohio-1679, ¶ 17. Thus,
if the evidence demonstrates that the defendant was in close proximity
to the contraband, such that the defendant was able to exercise
dominion or control over the contraband, this constitutes
circumstantial evidence that the defendant was in constructive
possession of the items.
State v. Walker, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 106378, 2018-Ohio-3588, ¶ 9, quoting
Brooks at id. Furthermore, a person may knowingly possess or control property
belonging to another; the state need not establish ownership to prove constructive possession. See State v. Robinson, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 90751, 2008-Ohio-5580,
However, “[c]onstructive possession cannot be inferred by a person’s
mere presence in the vicinity of contraband” or “mere access” to contraband or to
the area in which contraband is found. State v. Jansen, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No.
73940, 1999 Ohio App. LEXIS 2060, 8 (May 6, 1999); State v. Burney, 10th Dist.
Franklin No. 11AP-1036, 2012-Ohio-3974, ¶ 22-24, 32, quoting State v. Hall, 8th
Dist. Cuyahoga No. 66206, 1994 Ohio App. LEXIS 5391, 5 (Dec. 1, 1994). It must be
shown that the person was “conscious of the presence of the object.” State v.
Hankerson, 70 Ohio St.2d 87, 91, 434 N.E.2d 1362 (1982); Washington at ¶ 22;
State v. Bray, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 92619, 2009-Ohio-6461, ¶ 21.
In this case, the state did not present any evidence of actual
possession. Rather, the state alleged that Rice aided and abetted his codefendants
in the offenses committed against White and, therefore, constructively possessed a
firearm within the meaning of R.C. 2923.13(A)(3).
Ohio’s complicity statute provides that “[n]o person, acting with the
kind of culpability required for the commission of an offense, shall * * * [a]id or abet
another in committing the offense.” R.C. 2923.03(A)(2). Under R.C. 2923.03(F), a
person who is guilty of complicity in the commission of an offense “shall be
prosecuted and punished as if he were a principal offender. A charge of complicity
may be stated * * * in terms of the principal offense.” In order to constitute aiding and abetting, the accused must have
taken some role in causing the commission of the offense. State v. Sims, 10 Ohio
App.3d 56, 460 N.E.2d 672 (8th Dist.1983). A person aids or abets another when
he supports, assists, encourages, cooperates with, advises, or incites the principal in
the commission of the crime and shares the criminal intent of the principal. State
v. Johnson, 93 Ohio St.3d 240, 245-246, 754 N.E.2d 796 (2001). “Such intent may
be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the crime.” Id. at 246.
Aiding and abetting may be shown by both direct and circumstantial
evidence, and participation may be inferred from presence, companionship, and
conduct before and after the offense is committed. State v. Cartellone, 3 Ohio
App.3d 145, 150, 444 N.E.2d 68 (8th Dist.1981), citing State v. Pruett, 28 Ohio
App.2d 29, 34, 273 N.E.2d 884 (4th Dist.1971). Aiding and abetting may also be
established by overt acts of assistance such as driving a getaway car or serving as a
lookout. Id. at 150. See also State v. Trocodaro, 36 Ohio App.2d 1, 301 N.E.2d 898
(10th Dist.1973). However, “[t]he mere presence of an accused at the scene of the
crime is not sufficient to prove, in and of itself, that the accused was an aider and
abettor.” State v. Widner, 69 Ohio St.2d 267, 269, 431 N.E.2d 1025 (1982). “Mere
association with the principal offender * * * is [also] insufficient to establish
complicity.” State v. Hoston, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 102730, 2015-Ohio-5422, ¶
13, citing State v. Doumbas, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 100777, 2015-Ohio-3026.
Consistent with the state’s theory at trial, this court has recognized
that an unarmed accomplice can be convicted of an underlying felony, along with a firearm specification, based on an aider and abettor status. State v. Howard, 8th
Dist. Cuyahoga No. 97695, 2012-Ohio-3459, ¶ 24; State v. Chapman, 21 Ohio St.3d
41, 487 N.E.2d 566 (1986). The same principle applies to a conviction for having
weapons while under disability in violation of R.C. 2923.13(A)(2). Thus, a defendant
can be convicted of having a weapon while under disability without holding the
firearm if that person was an accomplice who aided and abetted the person who
actually possessed and brandished the weapon. State v. Adams, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga
No. 93513, 2010-Ohio-4478, ¶ 16 (finding that the defendant “constructively”
possessed the weapon where there was an accomplice relationship between the
physical possessor and the accomplice); State v. Lewis, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No.
81957, 2003-Ohio-3673 (evidence sufficient to prove having a weapon while under
disability when only codefendant pointed the gun at victims during robbery); State
v. Reed, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 93346, 2010-Ohio-1866 (conviction for having a
weapon while under disability upheld despite defendant not being the shooter, but
being an active participant in the crimes).
In this case, there is no dispute that Wagner possessed a firearm
during the commission of the crime against White. The surveillance footage
captured Wagner firing a handgun during the altercation with White. Additionally,
the ballistics evidence established that in addition to White’s .45 and .40 caliber
handguns, a third gun, which was transported to the scene and later found in
Haywood’s vehicle, was used during the shooting. Thus, regardless of whether the
state failed to demonstrate that Rice was present at the time firearms were placed in the trunk of Haywood’s Ford Fusion at some time after the shooting, we find the
determination of whether Rice aided and abetted the codefendants during the
commission of the underlying crimes is dispositive of Rice’s sufficiency arguments.
With respect to Rice’s culpability, the record reflects that Rice shared
a companionship with Wilson and the codefendants. Haywood confirmed that Rice
was present at Wilson’s home prior to the incident. In addition, forensic testing and
Rice’s jail-house phone calls with his mother established that Rice did, in fact, arrive
at the scene of the shooting in the vehicle Wilson had borrowed from Haywood.
While at the scene, Rice and his friends mingled with one another until White
arrived at the apartment complex in his company van. Following a lengthy
discussion between White, Wilson, and Wagner, surveillance footage showed
Wilson make a hand gesture towards Rice. In response, Rice walked over to Wilson,
took something from his hand, and then immediately went into the driver’s seat of
the Ford Fusion and started the vehicle. Less than one minute later, Rice began
flashing the headlights of the vehicle repeatedly. It was at this point that Wagner
and Wilson circled White and initiated the physical attack. When the conduct
against White escalated, Rice did not leave the scene. Rather, he positioned the
vehicle in such a way that Wagner and Wilson could quickly get into the vehicle and
exit the parking lot. And although the circumstances of the shooting caused Wagner
and Pinson to flee towards the vehicle Pinson had driven to the scene, the video
footage shows that Rice did not immediately flee upon hearing gunshots. In fact,
Rice waited until his companions were safely inside Pinson’s vehicle before escorting them out of the parking lot. The guns used during the shooting were later recovered
from inside the trunk of the vehicle Rice had fled the scene inside.
Viewing this evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, we
find a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense
proven beyond a reasonable doubt. From the evidence presented, the court could
reasonably conclude that Rice participated in the crimes at issue and shared
criminal intent in light of his actions before, during, and after the shooting. Because
Rice was under a disability and aided and abetted his codefendants in the
commission of the underlying offenses with a firearm, we find that the state
presented sufficient evidence of constructive possession to support Rice’s conviction
for having a weapon while under disability.
Finally, to the extent Rice contends that the trial court’s verdict was
inconsistent with the jury’s determination that he was not complicit in the
commission of the underlying offenses, this court has recognized that
[c]onsistency between verdicts on several counts of a criminal
indictment is unnecessary, and where the defendant is convicted on
one or some counts and acquitted on others the conviction will
generally be upheld, irrespective of its rational incompatibility with the
State v. Callahan, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 106445, 2018-Ohio-3590, ¶ 28, quoting
State v. Eason, 2016-Ohio-5516, 69 N.E.3d 1202, ¶ 67 (8th Dist.). “Each count of a
multi-count indictment is deemed distinct and independent of all other counts, and
thus inconsistent verdicts on different counts do not justify overturning a verdict of
guilt.” Eason at ¶ 68. Accordingly, we find that the inconsistency between the jury’s and the trial court’s verdicts does not require reversal of Rice’s conviction for having
weapons while under disability. See State v. Brown, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 89754,
2008-Ohio-1722 (rejecting argument that conviction on bench-tried weapon under
disability count was overridden by jury verdicts of not guilty on attempted murder
and felonious assault); State v. Douthitt, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 18AP-547, 2019-
Ohio-2528, ¶ 10 (“[Defendant]’s contention that the jury verdicts of acquittal
precluded his conviction for having a weapon while under disability is not welltaken.”); State v. Smith, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 14AP-33, 2014-Ohio-5443, ¶ 27
(affirming trial court judgment of guilt on weapon count despite jury verdicts of not
guilty on aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping); State v. Webb,
10th Dist. Franklin No. 10AP-289, 2010-Ohio-6122 (rejecting defendant’s double
jeopardy/collateral estoppel arguments that jury’s inability to reach verdict on
improper handling count was inconsistent with trial court’s rendering of guilty
verdict on charge of having a weapon while under disability); State v. Page, 10th
Dist. Franklin No. 11AP-466, 2012-Ohio-671 (affirming trial court’s conviction
finding defendant guilty of having a weapon while under disability despite the jury’s
verdict finding him not guilty of aggravated robbery, attempted murder, and
Rice’s first assignment of error is overruled.
B. Manifest Weight of the Evidence
In his second assignment of error, Rice argues his conviction is against
the manifest weight of the evidence. Rice reiterates that the jury rejected the state’s theory that he was complicit in the underlying crimes committed by his
codefendants. He further contends that the state failed to present any evidence to
establish when and how the guns recovered from Haywood’s vehicle were placed
inside the trunk. Thus, he maintains that the record is devoid of credible evidence
to suggest he actually or constructively possessed a firearm.
A manifest weight challenge questions whether the state met its
burden of persuasion. Bowden, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 92266, 2009-Ohio-3598, at
¶ 12. A reviewing court “‘weighs the evidence and all reasonable inferences,
considers the credibility of witnesses and determines 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.’” State v.
Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 387, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997), quoting State v. Martin,
20 Ohio App.3d 172, 175, 485 N.E.2d 717 (1st Dist.1983). “A conviction should be
reversed as against the manifest weight of the evidence only in the most ‘exceptional
case in which the evidence weighs heavily against the conviction.’” State v. Burks,
8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 106639, 2018-Ohio-4777, ¶ 47, quoting Thompkins at 387.
Based on the record before this court, we cannot say that 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. As stated, the trial court had the benefit of reviewing the surveillance
footage and was not bound by the jury’s resolution of Counts 2-9. Having weighed
the surveillance footage and the corroborating testimonial and physical evidence presented by the state, we find Rice’s conviction for having weapons while under
disability was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Collectively, the
evidence demonstrated Rice’s disability and his participation or assistance in the
commission of crimes that involved the use of a firearm.
Rice’s second assignment of error is overruled.
Outcome: Judgment affirmed.