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State v. Cotton

Supreme Court of Ohio
Oct 4, 1978
56 Ohio St. 2d 8 (Ohio 1978)

Summary

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 10 0.0.3d 4, 381 N.E.2d 190, at paragraph one of the syllabus, we agreed that "`prior calculation and design' is a more stringent element than the `deliberate and premeditated malice' which was required under prior law.

Summary of this case from Zuern v. Tate

Opinion

No. 77-1483

Decided October 4, 1978.

Criminal law — Aggravated murder — "Prior calculation and design," construed — Probate judge — May serve in criminal cases.

1. In a capital case prosecuted under R.C. 2903.01(A), "prior calculation and design" is a more stringent element than the "deliberate and premeditated malice" which was required under prior law. R.C. 2903.01(A), construed.

2. Instantaneous deliberation is not sufficient to constitute "prior calculation and design."

3. Where evidence adduced at trial reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity for the planning of an act of homicide to constitute prior calculation, and the circumstances surrounding the homicide show a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill, a finding by the trier of fact of prior calculation and design is justified.

4. R.C. 2931.01 is ineffective to disqualify a judge of the Probate Division of the Court of Common Pleas from serving in criminal cases. R.C. 2931.01, construed.

APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Richland County.

On February 23, 1976, appellant, Charles D. Cotton, was indicted for, inter alia, aggravated murder with specifications. The indictment specifically charged that appellant: (1) uttered, or possessed with intent to utter, a check of another which he knew to have been forged; (2) purposely and with prior calculation and design caused the death of another, with the specification that the offense was committed for the purpose of escaping apprehension for another offense, and with a second specification that the victim of the offense was a law enforcement officer while engaged in his duties; and (3) knowingly caused physical harm to another by means of a deadly weapon.

Appellant entered a plea of not guilty to each count on March 10, 1976. On April 29, 1976, appellant waived his right to a jury trial in open court and the court ordered that the trial be before a three-judge panel.

The evidence adduced at trial established that on February 6, 1976, appellant and his wife entered the T A Thrift Market to buy groceries. Mrs. Cotton had in her possession a checkbook belonging to Thelma Miller and she removed one of the checks and signed Thelma Miller's name to it. The assistant manager previously had received a report that Thelma Miller's checkbook had been stolen and, when Mrs. Cotton presented the check in payment for the groceries, he called the police to ascertain the status of the check. After waiting for a few moments, Mrs. Cotton presented a Master Charge card bearing Thelma Miller's name to pay for the groceries. Appellant then took the grocery basket out to his car, unloaded it and returned to the store where his wife was waiting. Two uniformed police officers, Michael R. Hutchison and Roger W. Casler, then entered the store. Appellant ran from the store and both officers proceeded after him. Officer Hutchison slipped and fell inside the store and Officer Casler caught up with appellant outside in the parking lot. At this point, Officer Casler lost his footing, was hit by appellant and fell, striking his head on the concrete. He was "dazed" by the fall. After again catching appellant, Officer Casler did not draw his gun, but appellant took the gun from Officer Casler's holster. During the scuffle, appellant was able to steady the weapon and fire. The first shot hit Officer Hutchison in the arm and he said, "I have been shot."

The scuffle between appellant and Officer Casler continued. Both went down and Officer Casler remained down. Two more shots were fired, one going into the back of Officer Casler. It was stopped by a bullet-proof vest.

Appellant then ran towards his car and came to Officer Hutchison, who had apparently been felled by his wound. Appellant stopped, assumed a shooting position, held the gun with both hands and fired the fatal shot down into Officer Hutchison, who was apparently attempting to crawl. Appellant then left the scene with both officer's guns.

Appellant and his wife, child and nephew were stopped in appellant's car not long after the episode had occurred. The car was searched and the two police pistols were subsequently discovered: one in Mrs. Cotton's purse and the other in a diaper bag. No other weapons were found.

The three-judge panel unanimously found appellant guilty of all counts and specifications charged in the indictment. Following a mitigation hearing, appellant was sentenced to death on the aggravated murder with specifications charge, to 2 to 5 years on the forgery charge and to 5 to 15 years on the felonious assault charge, all to run consecutively.

On October 26, 1977, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. The cause came before this court as a matter of right.

Mr. William F. McKee, prosecuting attorney, for appellee.

Messrs. Mestel, Cummings Benson, and Mr. Sanders J. Mestel, for appellant.


Appellant asserts six propositions of law. First, he argues that the trial court erred in overruling his renewed motion for acquittal at the close of all evidence, alleging that there was insufficient evidence upon which a reasonable mind might fairly conclude that appellant was guilty of aggravated murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

R.C. 2903.01 states in pertinent part:

"(A) No person shall purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the death of another."

This statute became effective on January 1, 1974. "Prior calculation and design" is not defined in the Criminal Code, nor has this court yet construed the phrase. Former law described "deliberate and premeditated malice" as constituting first degree murder. Under the prior statute, a killing could be premeditated even though conceived and executed on the spur of the moment. The only requirement was that the malicious purpose be formed before the homicidal act, however short in time. See State v. Stewart (1964), 176 Ohio St. 156, 198 N.E.2d 439.

"Prior calculation and design" is, however, a more stringent element. The apparent intention of the General Assembly in employing this phrase was to require more than the few moments of deliberation permitted in common law interpretations of the former murder statute, and to require a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill. Thus, instantaneous deliberation is not sufficient to constitute "prior calculation and design."

This reasoning does not buttress appellant's proposition. Appellant fired numerous shots at the two police officers, the last of which caused the death of Officer Hutchison. The evidence adduced reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity between the appearance of the police officers on the scene and the fatal shot into Officer Hutchison for the planning of the killing and for the planning to constitute prior calculation. The circumstances surrounding the firing of the non-fatal shots and the circumstances surrounding the firing of the last shot justify a finding of design.

Appellant alleges as his second proposition of law that R.C. 2945.06 is unconstitutional. That statute provides for trial by a three-judge panel if an accused waives his right to jury trial in a capital case. Appellant alleges that R.C. 2945.06 allows for arbitrary and capricious discretion by the three-judge panel and further penalizes an accused's right to plead not guilty. Appellant alleges further that the corresponding Crim. R. 11(C)(3) is also unconstitutional for the same reasons.

Appellant relies on United States v. Jackson (1968), 390 U.S. 570. However, reliance on that case is misplaced. In Jackson, a defendant, pursuant to the Federal Kidnapping Act, could, by waiving his right to a jury trial or pleading guilty, avoid the sentence of death. The court, at page 583, held that such a statute "needlessly encourages" guilty pleas and jury waivers and thus chills the exercise of basic constitutional rights. Because the statute penalized those defendants who pled not guilty and demanded a jury trial, the clause permitting this situation was declared unconstitutional.

Under R.C. 2945.06 and Crim. R. 11(C)(3), a defendant, even if he pleads guilty or no contest, is not assured that any or all of the specifications contained in his indictment will be dismissed, since under Crim. R. 11(C)(3) the court may dismiss such specification in the "interests of justice." Thus the chilling effect found in the Jackson case is absent in the Ohio scheme. State v. Weind (1977), 50 Ohio St.2d 224, 227-229, 364 N.E.2d 224.

As his third proposition of law, appellant asserts that the action of the three-judge panel is a nullity as one of the members of the panel was a probate judge.

In support, appellant cites R.C. 2931.01 which states in pertinent part:

"As used in Chapters 2931 to 2953, of the Revised Code:

"* * *

"(B) `Judge' does not include the probate judge."

Appellant points out that R.C. 2945.06 (which provides for the three-judge panel in capital cases where jury trial is waived) falls within the above statute.

Appellant's contention is without merit. Section 4 of Article IV (as amended effective November 6, 1973, and adopted May 7, 1968) of the Constitution of Ohio provides for a Court of Common Pleas and that the Probate Division shall be a division of that court. Section 5(A)(3) of Article IV provides in part:

"The chief justice or acting chief justice, as necessity arises, shall assign any judge of a court of common pleas or a division thereof temporarily to sit or hold court on any other court of common pleas or division thereof * * *."

R.C. 2931.01 is thus ineffective to disqualify judges of the Probate Division of a Court of Common Pleas from serving in criminal cases. Such automatic disqualification is contrary to the above provisions of the Constitution.

As his fourth proposition, appellant urges that R.C. 2901.05 unconstitutionally deprives a defendant of the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

That section provides in part:

"(A) Every person accused of an offense is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden of proof is upon the prosecution. * * *

"* * *

"(D) `Reasonable doubt' is present when the jurors, after they have carefully considered and compared all the evidence, cannot say they are firmly convinced of the truth of the charge. It is a doubt based on reason and common sense. Reasonable doubt is not mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affairs or depending on moral evidence is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. `Proof beyond a reasonable doubt' is proof of such character that an ordinary person would be willing to rely and act upon it in the most important of his own affairs."

Appellant contends that the above definition of reasonable doubt is "strikingly similar" to the standard of clear and convincing evidence.

We see no merit to that contention. Appellant did not object as to this matter at trial, nor has he cited any authority that the Ohio definition of reasonable doubt is constitutionally deficient. State v. Nabozny (1978), 54 Ohio St.2d 195, 375 N.E.2d 784.

Appellant, in his fifth proposition of law, argues that R.C. 2929.04(B) violates his Fourteenth Amendment rights by placing the burden of proof upon him at the mitigation hearing with respect to the degree of culpability and resulting punishment.

Because of the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Lockett v. Ohio (1978), ___ U.S. ___, 57 L. Ed. 2d 973, and Bell v. Ohio (1978), ___ U.S. ___, 57 L. Ed. 2d 1010, this court has already modified the sentence imposed in this cause and appellant's death sentence has been reduced to life imprisonment. See State v. Cornely (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 1, ___ N.E.2d ___.

As his sixth proposition, appellant urges that the trial court erred in overruling a motion to suppress tape recorded statements made by appellant and played at trial.

The prosecution in its case in chief presented no evidence as to any statements made by appellant. After the state rested, defense counsel called appellant as a witness. On direct examination, appellant denied seeing any police officers in the store or knowing that there were police officers attempting to apprehend him. Then the state, for impeachment purposes only, cross-examined appellant as to prior statements given to police following Miranda warnings. Appellant attempted to explain the discrepancies by testifying that the statements made to police were not actually his, but were those which the police directed him to say. The prosecution then submitted the statements and tapes for impeachment and the tapes subsequently were played at trial. Such impeachment is proper. See Oregon v. Hass (1975), 420 U.S. 714.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals with respect to the conviction of the appellant is affirmed and, as heretofore noted, the death sentence imposed upon appellant has been modified to life imprisonment.

Judgment accordingly.

CELEBREZZE, W. BROWN, STEPHENSON, SWEENEY and LOCHER, JJ., concur.

LEACH, C.J., not participating.

STEPHENSON, J., of the Fourth Appellate District, sitting for P. BROWN, J.


Summaries of

State v. Cotton

Supreme Court of Ohio
Oct 4, 1978
56 Ohio St. 2d 8 (Ohio 1978)

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 10 0.0.3d 4, 381 N.E.2d 190, at paragraph one of the syllabus, we agreed that "`prior calculation and design' is a more stringent element than the `deliberate and premeditated malice' which was required under prior law.

Summary of this case from Zuern v. Tate

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 10 O.O.3d 4, 381 N.E.2d 190, paragraph three of the syllabus, this court held that "[w]here evidence adduced at trial reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity for the planning of an act of homicide to constitute prior calculation, and the circumstances surrounding the homicide show a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill, a finding by the trier of fact of prior calculation and design is justified."

Summary of this case from State v. Hanna

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 10 O.O.3d 4, 381 N.E.2d 190, syllabus, we held that "[w]here evidence adduced at trial reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity for the planning of an act of homicide to constitute prior calculation, and the circumstances surrounding the homicide show a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill, a finding by the trier of fact of prior calculation and design is justified."

Summary of this case from State v. Jackson

In State v. Cotton. (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 10 O.O.3d 4, 381 N.E.2d 190, we held that "[w]here evidence adduced at trial reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity for the planning of an act of homicide to constitute prior calculation, and the circumstances surrounding the homicide show a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill, a finding by the trier of fact of prior calculation and design is justified."

Summary of this case from State v. Goodwin

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 10 O.O.3d 4, 381 N.E.2d 190, paragraph one of the syllabus, this court recognized that "`prior calculation and design' is a more stringent element than the `deliberate and premeditated malice' which was required under prior law.

Summary of this case from State v. Palmer

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 10 O.O.3d 4, 381 N.E.2d 190, at paragraph one of the syllabus, we agreed that "`prior calculation and design' is a more stringent element than the `deliberate and premeditated malice' which was required under prior law.

Summary of this case from State v. Taylor

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 11, 10 O.O.3d 4, 6, 381 N.E.2d 190, 193, this court observed that "prior calculation and design" requires "a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill."

Summary of this case from State v. D'Ambrosio

In Cotton, this court found that "[t]he apparent intention of the General Assembly in employing this phrase [ i.e., `prior calculation and design'] was to require more than the few moments of deliberation permitted in common law interpretations of the former murder statute, and to require a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill.

Summary of this case from State v. Sowell

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, this court discussed the term "prior calculation and design," as used in R.C. 2903.01(A), which had replaced the requirement of premeditation and deliberation when the General Assembly enacted a new Criminal Code in 1974.

Summary of this case from State v. Solomon

In Cotton we held that a murder had been committed with prior calculation and design when the defendant wounded a police officer, shot at another officer, then went to the first officer and fatally shot him.

Summary of this case from State v. Reed

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, the Supreme Court of Ohio held that, "[w]here evidence adduced at trial reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity for the planning of an act of homicide to constitute prior calculation, and the circumstances surrounding the homicide show a scheme designed to implement the calculated decision to kill, a finding by the trier of fact of prior calculation and design is justified."

Summary of this case from State v. Gibbs

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, at paragraph three of the syllabus, the Ohio Supreme Court held: "where evidence adduced at trial reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity for the planning of an act of homicide to constitute prior calculation, and the circumstances surrounding the homicide show a scheme designed to implement the calculated design to kill, a finding by the trier of fact of prior calculation and design is justified."

Summary of this case from State v. Stroud

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8 * * *, at paragraph one of the syllabus, we agreed that "` prior calculation and design' is a more stringent element than the `deliberate and premeditated malice' which was required under prior law.

Summary of this case from State v. Mardis

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, 381 N.E.2d 190 at paragraph three of the syllabus, the Ohio Supreme Court held: "where evidence adduced at trial reveals the presence of sufficient time and opportunity for the planning of an act of homicide to constitute prior calculation, and the circumstances surrounding the homicide show a scheme designed to implement the calculated design to kill, a finding by the trier of fact of prior calculation and design is justified."

Summary of this case from State v. Hopson

In State v. Cotton (1978), 56 Ohio St.2d 8, the Supreme Court concluded the defendant acted with prior calculation and design when, after a botched forgery attempt, he wrestled a gun from a police officer, fired shots at pursuing police and returned to the scene to kill an officer he had already wounded as the officer attempted to crawl away.

Summary of this case from State v. Whisenant
Case details for

State v. Cotton

Case Details

Full title:THE STATE OF OHIO, APPELLEE, v. COTTON, APPELLANT

Court:Supreme Court of Ohio

Date published: Oct 4, 1978

Citations

56 Ohio St. 2d 8 (Ohio 1978)
381 N.E.2d 190

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