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Date: 08-02-2022

Case Style:


Case Number: C-210445


Ginger S. Bock; Presiding Judge

Marilyn Zayas
Candace C. Crouse



On Appeal From The : Hamilton County Municipal Court

Plaintiff's Attorney:
Joseph T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Mary Stier, Assistant
Prosecuting Attorney

Defendant's Attorney:

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Cincinnati, Ohio - Criminal Defense lawyer represented defendant with a domestic violence charge.

Sean, his mother, Carol Stockstill, and his sister, Johnnie Stockstill,
lived together. At a bench trial, Johnnie testified that she was heating up food when
Sean came in the front door and tried to talk to her. Her mother warned her that Sean
had been drinking, so she told Sean, “Don’t talk to me.” Sean responded, “Fine, then
get out of my way,” walked up to Johnnie, and pushed her. Johnnie called the police.
{¶3} Earlier, Carol had left the house after Sean had begun to drink alcohol
and, when he drinks, he always “gets in these modes [and] he can’t control himself.”
When Carol returned home, Sean and Johnnie were arguing. When Carol intervened,
Sean “got in her face” and yelled at her. Carol testified, “[b]ecause when he’s in that
mode, I don’t know what he’s going to do,” she sprayed him with pepper spray.
{¶4} As Sean rinsed his face with a garden hose, Carol crossed the street to
retrieve her dog. Sean grabbed her from behind and brought her to the ground. Carol
testified that she had a “few cuts and scrapes” and she “believe[d] [that her] ribs were
bruised.” Carol was treated at the emergency room—medical staff took x-rays and
bandaged her hand and knee.
{¶5} Johnnie testified that she saw Carol in the garage with Sean when he
“came into her face aggressively, and then [Carol] pepper sprayed him.” According to
Johnnie, Sean grabbed a spray bottle of alcohol and attempted to spray Carol with it.
Sean used the garden hose to rinse his face off.
{¶6} Johnnie testified that, as her mother walked across the street, Sean
walked up to Carol, grabbed the front of her throat, and threw her to the ground. She
recalled that, despite Carol having “nothing in her hands” that might have harmed
Sean, he “slammed her” and walked away for a brief moment as she lay on the ground.
According to Johnnie, Sean returned and attempted to punch Carol in the face.
Johnnie thought that she saw Carol grab pepper spray to attempt to spray Sean again.
{¶7} According to Johnnie, she intervened because Sean stood over Carol
with a “closed fist getting ready to hit her in the face.” Johnnie testified that she
threatened to stab Sean with a knife that she was holding and he backed away from
Carol. Johnnie recalled paramedics helping Carol up from the ground and Carol’s
injuries—“a busted knee,” wounds to her hand and foot, and possible head trauma as
Carol held her head “as if it hurt.”
{¶8} City of Sharonville Police Officer Hodges responded and found Carol on
the ground across from her home, bleeding from her hand, knee, and toe. Carol was
holding her head. Hodges called an ambulance to have Carol checked out because “she
obviously wasn’t able to stand up at the time.” Sean was already in handcuffs receiving
treatment from the paramedics for his injuries from the pepper spray. Hodges arrested
Sean for domestic violence based on Carol’s injuries.
Sean’s Self-Defense Testimony
{¶9} At the trial, Sean maintained that he had been drinking when Johnnie
“antagoniz[ed]” him, which started the argument. He asserted that Carol entered the
argument and pepper sprayed him. He “pushed or tried to push away to get away”
from her in self-defense. Sean stated that Johnnie told Carol to stay on the ground.
{¶10} On cross-examination, Sean stated that his inability to remember
details of the events was “probably” attributable to the amount of alcohol he
consumed, and the alcohol’s interaction with his medication. But Sean maintained
that Carol and Johnnie were the antagonists and initiated the confrontation. He
testified that he still suffers from pain from the pepper spray.
The Trial Court’s Judgment
{¶11} The trial court found Sean guilty of domestic violence. The court
believed that after Carol pepper sprayed Sean, he had washed his eyes and “went back
to [his] mother and decided to get back at her.” The court continued the matter for a
presentence investigation.
{¶12} Before sentencing, Sean violated a protection order from the court
requiring him to stay away from Carol and the residence. After the cases were merged,
Sean pleaded guilty to violating the protection order. The court sentenced Sean to 180
days for the protection-order violation and 180 days for the domestic-violence
conviction, credited 19 days on each sentence, and imposed $200 in fines and court
costs for each offense.
Law and Analysis
A. Weight of the Evidence
{¶13} In reviewing a weight-of-the-evidence claim, we review “ ‘the entire
record, weigh the evidence and all reasonable inferences, consider the credibility of
the witnesses and determine 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.’ ” State v. Bailey, 1st Dist.
Hamilton No. C-140129, 2015-Ohio-2997, ¶ 59, quoting State v. Thompkins, 78 Ohio
St.3d 380, 678 N.E.2d 541 (1997).
{¶14} The weight of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses are
primarily for the trier of fact. Bailey at ¶ 63. In reviewing a challenge to the weight of
the evidence, this court sits as a “thirteenth juror.” Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 678
N.E.2d 541. But this court will not substitute its judgment for that of the trier of fact
on the issue of witness credibility unless it is patently apparent that the trier of fact
lost its way in arriving at its verdict. Bailey at ¶ 63.
{¶15} Sean was convicted of domestic violence under R.C. 2919.25(A), which
provides, “No person shall knowingly cause or attempt to cause physical harm to a
family or household member.” And “[t]he slightest injury is sufficient to prove physical
harm.” State v. Daniels, 2018-Ohio-1701, 111 N.E.3d 708, ¶ 35 (1st Dist.) (collecting
cases of physical harm).
{¶16} Sean’s sole assignment of error contends that there was no credible
evidence to support a conviction for domestic violence because “the force employed by
Sean to push away Carol was not deadly force,” he pushed Carol in self-defense in
response to the pepper spray, and his force was not unreasonable. Sean argues that
the inconsistencies in Johnnie’s testimony—that Sean attempted to punch Carol in the
face as she was lying on the ground and Johnnie threatened Sean with a knife to
prevent it—renders her testimony incredible. Sean further contends that he was
blinded when he was pepper sprayed, and “Carol’s use of pepper spray to end his
argument, irrespective of the annoyance he presented, was an illegal assault.”
{¶17} The state presented credible evidence to support Sean’s domesticviolence conviction. Sean does not deny that he caused Carol’s injuries. Instead, he
asserts that he injured her to defend himself.
B. Self-Defense
{¶18} To establish self-defense, defendants have the initial burden of
producing evidence that tends to support that they used force in self-defense. State v.
Davidson-Dixon, 2021-Ohio-1485, 170 N.E.3d 557, ¶ 21 (8th Dist.); R.C.
2901.05(B)(1). In a nondeadly force case, the defendant must produce sufficient
evidence tending to support that: 1.) he did not create the situation that caused the
altercation, 2.) he had reasonable grounds to believe, and honestly believed, that he
was in imminent danger of bodily harm, and 3.) the only way to protect himself from
the danger was using force and he did not use more force than was reasonably
necessary to defend himself against the danger. Id. at ¶ 21. If the defendant satisfies
this burden, the state then carries the burden of persuasion to prove the absence of
any of these three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Jacinto, 2020-Ohio3722, 155 N.E.3d 1056, ¶ 46 (8th Dist.).
{¶19} The record reflects that Sean may have created the situation when he
stood face-to-face with his mother and raised his voice to her. Sean conceded that he
had been drinking that day. Carol was concerned for her safety, which was
understandable considering her familiarity with Sean’s behavior when he drinks. After
Carol pepper sprayed Sean and crossed the street, there was no longer any threat of
harm to Sean. But Sean followed Carol across the street and then pushed her to the
ground. And Sean presented no evidence that Carol posed a threat to him when he
pushed her. Even if Sean did not create the situation, he was not in danger of imminent
bodily harm after Carol she had already walked away from Sean and crossed the street.
He had no need to use any force, much less the amount of force used to cause Carol’s
injuries. Sean’s self-defense claim fails. His assignment of error is overruled.

Outcome: The evidence in the record supports Sean’s conviction for domestic
violence under R.C 2919.25(A). The trial court is in the best position to determine the credibility of the witnesses and evidence before it. Sean cannot show that the trial court lost its way in finding him guilty of domestic violence, and the conviction was not contrary to law. Sean’s sole assignment of error is overruled.

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