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State v. Morales

Supreme Court of Ohio
Sep 2, 1987
32 Ohio St. 3d 252 (Ohio 1987)

Summary

finding sufficient evidence to support element of creating a risk of serious physical harm where "the jury could reasonably conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant removed [the child victim] from the place where he was found for the purpose of committing a felony or of inflicting serious physical harm."

Summary of this case from Hill v. Mitchell

Opinion

No. 86-1927

Decided September 2, 1987.

Criminal law — Aggravated murder — Specification of kidnapping child under age thirteen — Specification proven, when — Death penalty upheld.

O.Jur 3d Criminal Law §§ 1716, 1843, 1845.

The kidnapping of a child under the age of thirteen, in violation of R.C. 2905.01, by any means including deception, for the purpose of committing any felony or inflicting serious physical harm on the victim, is sufficient to satisfy the specification and aggravating circumstance of kidnapping for aggravated murder pursuant to R.C. 2903.01(B) and 2929.04(A)(7).

APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County.

On the evening of March 2, 1985, Mario L. Trevino, age twelve, was killed in Cleveland, Ohio. The victim, five feet, two inches tall, and weighing ninety-three pounds, had been savagely beaten to death. The record reveals the following sequence of events which preceded this tragic conclusion.

The cause of death was described as "multiple blunt impacts to the head and blunt crushing impacts to the trunk with multiple visceral or organ injuries." The totality of the injuries inflicted upon the boy was described as being as extensive as that "* * * [associated] * * * with * * * [the] type of trauma * * * [normally seen] in automobile accidents, * * *," including numerous bruises and contusions, multiple incision wounds, a hairline fracture of the skull, dislocated right collarbone, two fractured ribs, massive injuries to the chest wall, bruising and tearing of the left lung, and a tearing of the liver.

Appellant, Alfred J. Morales, stands five feet, eight inches tall, weighs two hundred twenty pounds, and is an expert in the martial arts. The Trevino family, Mario being the youngest male member, had known appellant for many years prior to the evening of March 2, 1985. Through their acquaintanceship with appellant, the Trevinos were well aware of appellant's skill in the martial arts and of his ability to use a variety of weapons for their intended purposes.

For a time, Jesse Trevino, the victim's older brother, and appellant had been friends. This friendship ended at a previous time when Jesse refused to commit perjury for appellant, thereby depriving appellant of an alibi regarding the theft of a taxicab. As a result of Jesse's refusal, appellant pled guilty to the theft offense and was returned to the Mansfield Reformatory.

Appellant had been released on probation from the Mansfield Reformatory shortly before the taxicab incident.

While in the Mansfield Reformatory, appellant wrote threatening letters to Toby Trevino, brother of both Jesse and Mario. The letters suggested revenge upon the whole Trevino family, including Yolanda Trevino, sister of Jesse, Toby and Mario, who had previously refused to become appellant's girlfriend. The envelope of one letter contained both a drawing and the letters "D.W.C.S.," "B.W." and "D.O.D." The letters were later shown to mean "Death Will Come Soon," "Beware" and "Demon of Darkness," a name appellant used for himself. The drawing on this envelope depicts a heart pierced by a sword. Toby Trevino's name is printed on the heart and blood is dripping from the tip of the sword. The envelope of the second letter likewise contained a drawing. The second drawing depicts a skull, dripping blood, with a sword passing through it. Beneath the skull is printed the word "DANGER."

On February 19, 1985, appellant was released from the Mansfield Reformatory. During the three-week period between appellant's release and Mario's murder, appellant was observed watching the Trevino home while hiding in the bushes of a house near the Trevinos' residence. During this same time period, appellant stated to a variety of witnesses that he was "going to kill Toby's ass," that "he had some killing to do and that he knew he was going back to where he came from," and that "he had * * * a killing to do, and [that] he knew he was going back * * * [a]nd he didn't care."

On the evening of his death, Mario left home some time after 6:00 p.m. to play video games at a nearby store. After leaving the store, Mario was confronted by appellant who told Mario that he wanted to talk with him regarding the problems between appellant and the Trevino family. Mario accompanied appellant from the store to a secretive location, approximately one and one-half to two miles from the store. It was at this location that appellant murdered Mario.

Following the murder, appellant went to the nearby home of an acquaintance to wash the blood from his hands and apply ice to his knuckles to control the swelling. When appellant left that location, he left behind the towel containing the ice for his knuckles and his blood-stained white shirt. Soon after appellant's departure, the towel and blood-stained shirt were turned over to the authorities.

Later the same evening, appellant was confronted by Jesse and Toby Trevino who, having learned that Mario had been seen in the company of appellant, questioned appellant as to Mario's whereabouts. Appellant responded: "I haven't seen Mario," "I'm not taking the rap for nothing I didn't do, man," and "[y]ou know, the next time I go into jail, it's going to be for murder."

Early the next morning, March 3, 1985, Mario's body was discovered. While notifying the Trevinos of Mario's death, the authorities were informed of the threatening letters sent by appellant. Appellant was subsequently arrested and his home searched. The search produced a jacket and shoes which were still wet from having recently been washed.

After being informed of his constitutional rights, appellant therein provided police with both oral and written statements concerning the death of Mario. In both the oral and written statements, appellant admitted that he had confronted the boy at the beverage store, led him to the secluded location and then brutally beat the child, leaving Mario to die.

Appellant was subsequently indicted for kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01, aggravated murder with prior calculation and design in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A), and aggravated murder in violation of R.C. 2903.02(B) with the specification that the crime was committed while appellant was committing or attempting to commit the offense of kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01. At his arraignment, appellant entered pleas of not guilty to all the offenses charged. These pleas were all subsequently changed to pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The proper numerical designation for aggravated murder with prior calculation and design is R.C. 2903.01(A). Although the numerical designation listed in the indictment is incorrect, the language of the indictment makes it clear that appellant was charged with aggravated murder. The indictment is in the language of R.C. 2903.01(A). Further, Crim. R. 7(B) provides in part that:
"* * * Each count of the indictment or information shall state the numerical designation of the statute which the defendant is alleged therein to have violated. Error in the designation or its omission shall not be ground for dismissal of the indictment or information, or for reversal of a conviction, if the error or omission did not mislead the defendant to his prejudice." (Emphasis added.)
Appellant herein was neither misled nor prejudiced by this error.

The proper numerical designation for aggravated murder with a kidnapping specification is R.C. 2903.01(B). Although the numerical designation of the indictment herein is incorrect, the language of the indictment makes it clear that appellant was charged with aggravated murder. The indictment is in the language of R.C. 2903.01(B). Further, see discussion, supra, concerning Crim. R. 7(B).

The indictments were consolidated for trial which commenced on December 2, 1985. On December 18, 1985, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictments. The subsequent penalty hearing resulted in a recommendation by the jury that the appellant be sentenced to death upon the jury's determination that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court, upon completion of its required independent weighing of the mitigating factors against the aggravating circumstances, adopted the recommendation of the jury and imposed the penalty of death. Additionally, the trial court sentenced appellant to a term of confinement of ten to twenty-five years for the crime of kidnapping and life imprisonment for the crime of aggravated murder with prior calculation and design.

The court of appeals affirmed the convictions and sentences in all respects.

The cause is now before this court upon an appeal as of right.

John T. Corrigan, prosecuting attorney, and Michael S. Nolan, for appellee.

Charles R. Laurie, Jr., for appellant.


The instant appeal presents this court with numerous issues concerning appellant's convictions and the penalty of death which was subsequently imposed. For the reasons discussed infra, we affirm the judgment of the court of appeals in all respects and uphold appellant's death sentence.

Appellant's first proposition of law challenges the trial court's refusal to grant a mistrial following an emotional outburst by the victim's brother during the trial. Appellant argues that the emotional outburst by Jesse Trevino, which occurred during cross-examination of appellant's father, was inflammatory, prejudicial and deprived him of a fair trial. We disagree.

"[THE COURT] Listen to the question, Mr. Morales, and answer the question.
"Q. [BY MR. NOLAN, prosecuting attorney]: You knew that there was a problem between your son Alfred Morales and Jesse Trevino, correct?
"A. Nope.
"Q. That is not correct?
"A. No sir.
"JESSE TREVINO: You're lying. There was a problem, man. Shit, don't — hey, he's lying, Mr. Nolan. He's lying. You better get him off that stand.
"MR. NOLAN: I apologize to the Court, Your Honor, and the jury.
"MR. DAMIANI [defense counsel]: Your Honor, may we approach the bench?
"THE COURT: Yes."

This court has previously discussed the standard for determining whether an emotional outburst during a murder trial by a spectator related to the victim improperly influences the jury. In State v. Bradley (1965), 3 Ohio St.2d 38, 32 O.O. 2d 21, 209 N.E.2d 215, this court stated as part of the syllabus:

"Whether an emotional demonstration in the courtroom during the course of a murder trial by a spectator related to the victim improperly influences the jury against the accused[,] * * * constitute[s] misconduct so as to deprive the accused of a fair trial * * * [is a question] of fact to be resolved by the trial court, whose determination thereon will not be disturbed on review in the absence of evidence contrary to that determination clearly and affirmatively appearing on the face of the record."

In reaching this conclusion, we stated that "* * * the trial judge had the occasion, which is given neither to * * * [this court] nor to the Court of Appeals, to gauge the totality of the impact upon the jury of the spectator's demonstration." Id. at 40, 32 O.O. 2d at 22, 209 N.E.2d at 216. Absent clear evidence in the record that the outburst improperly affected the jury, only the trial judge can authoritatively determine whether the jury was disturbed, alarmed, shocked or moved by the demonstration or whether the incident was of such a nature that it necessarily influenced the ultimate verdict of conviction. Id. The answer to those questions invariably depends upon facts and circumstances which a reviewing court cannot ordinarily glean from the record.

Thus, the trial court determines, as a question of fact, whether the demonstration deprived the defendant of a fair trial by improperly influencing the jury. In the absence of clear, affirmative evidence to the contrary, the trial court's determination will not be disturbed. State v. Bradley, supra. Here, the judge admonished the jury to disregard the occurrence and, in addition, found that Jesse Trevino's outburst was not prejudicial. There being no clear, affirmative evidence to the contrary, that determination will not be disturbed. Accordingly, appellant's first proposition is without merit.

In propositions of law numbers two and seven, appellant attacks the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction of kidnapping and the corresponding specification. Appellant contends that the trial court erred in failing to grant his motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the state's evidence. In support of this contention, appellant argues that "* * * [t]here was absolutely no evidence that a kidnapping had taken place," and that "* * * [t]he mere fact that the murder took place in a remote area does not make * * * [appellant] guilty of kidnapping or the specification of kidnapping." Appellant's argument is without merit.

A motion for acquittal should be granted only "* * * if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction * * *" for the offense or offenses with which the defendant is charged. Crim. R. 29(A). "[A] court shall not order an entry of judgment of acquittal [pursuant to Crim. R. 29(A)] if the evidence is such that reasonable minds can reach different conclusions as to whether each material element of the crime has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Bridgeman (1978), 55 Ohio St.2d 261, 9 O.O. 3d 401, 381 N.E.2d 184, syllabus. A careful review of the record herein reveals that the evidence presented by the state was such that reasonable minds could differ as to whether each of the elements of kidnapping was proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Appellant was convicted of kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A) and aggravated murder in violation of R.C. 2903.01(B) with the specification of committing the aggravated murder while committing, after committing or fleeing from the commission of kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A).

R.C. 2905.01(A) provides that "[n]o person, by force, threat, or deception, or, in the case of a victim under the age of thirteen or mentally incompetent, by any means, shall remove another from the place where he is found or restrain him of his liberty * * *" (emphasis added) for certain enumerated purposes.

This section prohibits a person, with the intent to commit one of the enumerated acts, from either removing or restraining another from liberty by force, threat or deception. Yet, no such active conduct is required when the victim is a child under the age of thirteen. When considering a child of such tender years, the removal or restraint is prohibited by any means. The Committee Comment to R.C. 2905.01 illustrates particularly well the divergent standards to be applied when considering the kidnapping of an adult versus the kidnapping of a child under the age of thirteen:

"Force, threat, or deception is generally required to commit the offense, as when the victim is bodily carried off, frightened into going along, or decoyed away. The lack of discretion in a child or incompetent person, however, dictates the exception. For example children are often abducted merely by accepting rides from strangers, and under this section it makes no difference whether the child or incompetent voluntarily accompanies the kidnapper or submits to restraint." (Emphasis added.)

Accordingly, while a child under the age of thirteen may be kidnapped by or through the use of force, threats or deception, such conduct is not essential to a conviction. A violation of this section may be found even where the child voluntarily accompanies the kidnapper or submits to restraint provided one of the enumerated purposes is likewise found to have existed.

Mario was twelve years of age when the offense was committed. Therefore, force, threat or deception was not essential, as appellant would have us hold, for appellant to commit the offense of kidnapping. However, even were such evidence required to support a kidnapping conviction in this case, the record reveals that appellant in fact utilized deception to persuade Mario to accompany him.

The record reveals that appellant had, both before and after his release from the Mansfield Reformatory, threatened the entire Trevino family which, of course, included Mario. Additionally, the Trevino family was well aware of appellant's desire for revenge against them individually and as a unit. Further, appellant was observed, just days before the killing, watching the Trevino house from the bushes of a nearby home. Therefore, given this background, reasonable minds could conclude that appellant had, by deception and subterfuge, decoyed the boy to his death when he confronted his victim at the beverage store, told his victim that he wished to discuss the problem between appellant and the Trevino family and then led his victim to the secretive location.

While, because of Mario's age, evidence of deception is not required to prove removal or restraint for purposes of a conviction for kidnapping, such evidence does provide support for the jury's finding of the required purpose element as set forth in R.C. 2905.01(A)(2) and (3). R.C. 2905.01(A) provides in pertinent part:

"No person, by force, threat, or deception, or, in the case of a victim under the age of thirteen or mentally incompetent, by any means, shall remove another from the place where he is found or restrain him of his liberty, for any of the following purposes:

"* * *

"(2) To facilitate the commission of any felony or flight thereafter;

"(3) To terrorize, or to inflict serious physical harm on the victim or another."

Our review of the record reveals significant evidence supporting appellant's conviction under either or both of these subsections. From the evidence described supra, the jury could reasonably conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant removed Mario from the place where he was found for the purpose of committing a felony or of inflicting serious physical harm. Therefore, we find that the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support a finding that each element of the kidnapping offense was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant's motion for acquittal was properly denied.

Accordingly, we hold that the kidnapping of a child under the age of thirteen, in violation of R.C. 2905.01, by any means including deception, for the purpose of committing any felony or inflicting serious physical harm on the victim, is sufficient to satisfy the specification and aggravating circumstance of kidnapping for aggravated murder pursuant to R.C. 2903.01(B) and 2929.04(A)(7).

In appellant's third proposition of law, appellant asserts that he was denied due process of law and a fair trial when the trial court permitted into evidence "gruesome photographs" of the victim's body. Appellant contends that "[t]he admission in evidence, over objection of defense counsel, of these photographs of the murder victim was an abuse of discretion in that these photographs were so gruesome that they could tend to unreasonably inflame the jury against the defendant." We do not agree.

When considering the admissibility of photographic evidence under Evid. R. 403, the question is whether the probative value of the photographic evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to the defendant. See State v. Tingler (1972), 31 Ohio St.2d 100, 103-104, 60 O.O. 2d 81, 83-84, 285 N.E.2d 710, 713; State v. Rahman (1986), 23 Ohio St.3d 146, 152, 23 OBR 315, 320, 492 N.E.2d 401, 407. The admission or exclusion of such photographic evidence is left to the discretion of the trial court. State v. Hill (1967), 12 Ohio St.2d 88, 41 O.O. 2d 369, 232 N.E.2d 394, paragraph two of the syllabus; State v. Wilson (1972), 30 Ohio St.2d 199, 203-204, 59 O.O. 2d 220, 222, 283 N.E.2d 632, 636; State v. Tingler, supra. Accordingly, a trial court may reject an otherwise admissible photograph which, because of its inflammatory nature, creates a danger of prejudicial impact that substantially outweighs the probative value of the photograph as evidence. Absent such danger, the photograph is admissible.

However, in capital cases, this court has, in State v. Maurer (1984), 15 Ohio St.3d 239, 15 OBR 379, 473 N.E.2d 768, set forth a stricter evidentiary standard for the introduction of photographs. In Maurer, supra, this court held in paragraph seven of the syllabus that:

"Properly authenticated photographs, even if gruesome, are admissible in a capital prosecution if relevant and of probative value in assisting the trier of fact to determine the issues or are illustrative of testimony and other evidence, as long as the danger of material prejudice to a defendant is outweighed by their probative value and the photographs are not repetitive or cumulative in number." (Emphasis added.)

Thus, the emphasis that a trial judge must apply in meeting an Evid. R. 403 objection has changed in capital cases. To be admissible in a capital case, the probative value of each photograph must outweigh the danger of prejudice to the defendant and, additionally, not be repetitive or cumulative in nature. Contrary to the Evid. R. 403 standard, where the probative value must be minimal and the prejudice great before the evidence may be excluded, pursuant to Maurer, supra, if the probative value does not, in a simple balancing of the relative values, outweigh the danger of prejudice to the defendant, the evidence must be excluded. See the insightful discussion of Professor John W. Palmer in his Ohio Rules of Evidence Desk Manual (1986), at 169. See, also, State v. Mann (1985), 19 Ohio St.3d 34, 38, 19 OBR 28, 32, 482 N.E.2d 592, 597; State v. Martin (1985), 19 Ohio St.3d 122, 129, 19 OBR 330, 336, 483 N.E.2d 1157, 1164; and State v. Williams (1986), 23 Ohio St.3d 16, 19, 23 OBR 11, 16, 490 N.E.2d 906, 910.

Concededly, more than a few of the photographs in the case now before us are gruesome. Yet, "the mere fact that a photograph is gruesome or horrendous is not sufficient to render it per se inadmissible." State v. Maurer, supra, at 265, 15 OBR at 401, 473 N.E.2d at 791; State v. Woodards (1966), 6 Ohio St.2d 14, 25, 35 O.O. 2d 8, 14, 215 N.E.2d 568, 577. Therefore, provided the probative value of each photograph in the case at bar outweighs its prejudicial impact and the photograph is neither repetitive nor cumulative in nature, its admission as evidence will not be disturbed as an abuse of discretion by the trial court.

The photographs in the case sub judice depict the scene of the murder, the victim's body before and during the coroner's examination and the cuts and abrasions present on appellant's hands and knuckles. Each of these photographs illustrated testimony of state witnesses concerning the murder site, the cause of death and appellant's liability therefore. As we stated in Maurer, supra, at 265, 15 OBR at 401, 473 N.E.2d at 791, "[s]uch illustrative photographs are generally admissible." See, also, State v. Rahman, supra, at 152, 23 OBR at 320, 492 N.E.2d at 407. Further, the photographs concerning the victim's injuries were probative with regard to the showing of intent and deliberation on the part of appellant.

On balance, we find that the gruesome photographs admitted as evidence in appellant's trial, while numerous, were neither repetitive nor cumulative in nature. Additionally, their probative value outweighed the danger of unfair prejudice to appellant, thereby satisfying the Maurer standard. Likewise, the dictates of Evid. R. 403 have been satisfied since the probative value of the photographs was not substantially outweighed by their prejudicial, if any, effect. Appellant's proposition of law is overruled.

We pause to caution that our decision herein does not condone the use of excessive photographic evidence in capital cases. As stated supra, photographs in capital cases are scrutinized by a stricter standard. While we have found no prejudicial effect of the photographs admitted in the case at bar, this does not infer that the same result will occur in other cases. Such determination is made on a case-by-case basis. We raise this concern on the basis that a limited number of gruesome photographs were utilized in State v. Maurer, supra, a substantially greater number were entered into evidence in State v. Thompson (1987), 33 Ohio St. 1, 514 N.E.2d 407, a large volume were utilized in the case now before us and varying numbers have been found in other capital cases which have been or are being reviewed by this court. We strongly caution judicious use of this type of evidence so that any question of probative value, as compared to cumulative, repetitious and prejudicial effects, will be avoided.

Appellant's fourth, fifth and sixth propositions of law challenge the constitutionality of the statutory scheme for imposing the death penalty in Ohio. Appellant initially argues that a proof-beyond-all-doubt standard is required before the death penalty may be imposed and, therefore, would have us find the current proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard insufficient and infirm. This court has previously rejected that argument in State v. Jenkins (1984), 15 Ohio St.3d 164, 210-211, 15 OBR 311, 350-351, 473 N.E.2d 264, 304-305; State v. Maurer, supra, at 248, 15 OBR at 387, 473 N.E.2d at 779; State v. Buell (1986), 22 Ohio St.3d 124, 136, 22 OBR 203, 213, 489 N.E.2d 795, 806; State v. Williams (1986), 23 Ohio St.3d 16, 22, 23 OBR 13, 19, 490 N.E.2d 906, 913; and State v. Scott (1986), 26 Ohio St.3d 92, 105, 26 OBR 79, 90, 497 N.E.2d 55, 66. Appellant has not persuaded us to alter our present position.

Appellant also contends that requiring proof of aggravating circumstances in the guilt stage of the bifurcated death penalty trial violates both the United States and Ohio Constitutions. We have previously rejected this argument in State v. Jenkins, supra, at 173, 15 OBR at 319, 473 N.E.2d at 277; and State v. Buell, supra, at 137, 22 OBR at 214, 489 N.E.2d at 807. In State v. Buell, id., we stated that "* * * no presumptive bias is created in favor of the aggravating factors by requiring their proof beyond a reasonable doubt in the guilt phase. [Indeed,] [w]hether a sentencing phase is needed at all rests upon this predetermination." Moreover, to hold as appellant asks us to hold would require prosecutors to indict a party, pursuant to R.C. 2929.021, 2929.022, 2929.03 and 2929.04, with the statutorily mandated aggravating circumstances, and then prohibit the introduction of evidence concerning that element of the indictment during the guilt phase of the trial. Such a holding defies both logic and the statutory framework set forth by the Ohio Legislature. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth in Jenkins, supra, and Buell, supra, this proposition is without merit.

Appellant further argues that imposition of the death penalty under R.C. 2929.03 and 2929.04 violates his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. While the United States Supreme Court has found the death penalty not violative of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, see Gregg v. Georgia (1976), 428 U.S. 153, 187, and this court has additionally found Ohio's statutory scheme consistent with Sections 9 and 16, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, see Jenkins, supra, at 167-174, 15 OBR at 314-320, 473 N.E.2d at 272-277; State v. Maurer, supra, at 241-242, 15 OBR at 380-382, 473 N.E.2d at 773-775; State v. Brooks (1986), 25 Ohio St.3d 144, 154-155, 25 OBR 190, 199, 495 N.E.2d 407, 415-416; State v. Glenn (1986),

28 Ohio St. 3d 451, 452, 28 OBR 501, 502, 504 N.E.2d 701, 704; and State v. Zuern (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 56, 512 N.E.2d 585, we feel compelled to discuss appellant's assertions in light of the particularly heinous character of appellant's actions in murdering Mario.

In support of his contentions, appellant states:

"Necessarily every punishment contains an element of cruelty. * * * [Yet,] when the level of cruelty is disproportionate to the crime, and consequently does not serve the needs of society, a court will find the punishment to be too cruel and, thus cruel within the term of art in the cruel and unusual punishment clauses." (Citations omitted.)

Notwithstanding our agreement or disagreement with appellant's contention, the Ohio Legislature has, as a matter of policy, decided that the death penalty serves society's needs in Ohio. Additionally, both this court and the United States Supreme Court have decided that the imposition of the death penalty is, in its current narrow statutory framework, neither excessive nor unconstitutional. Gregg v. Georgia, supra, and Jenkins, supra. Appellant now, in essence, argues that the death penalty is disproportionate to the particular crime that he committed. We disagree.

Appellant contends that "[t]he actual physical and psychological pain of execution itself is immeasurable." Additionally, appellant says that "[a] convicted felon suffers extreme mental and physical anguish is [ sic] anticipation of his execution. `The tremendous mental strain of inexorably approaching a foreordained death is unique to the condemned man.'" (Citations omitted.)

Against appellant's purported mental and physical anguish, we consider and balance the savage execution of a twelve-year-old boy, fully six inches shorter and one hundred twenty-seven pounds lighter than appellant, and society's right and need to prevent this type of horrendous conduct. There is no disproportionality in the instant case when we consider the fear, pain and horror that unquestionably filled the last moments of Mario Trevino's life.

Appellant plotted, planned and lured a young boy to his certain death. Upon reaching a secluded location, appellant coldly and cruelly began beating the boy to death. During the course of this "execution," appellant knocked the boy down a hill, pulled the boy up again, and once again began systematically beating the life from his victim. The ultimate example of the savagery and sadistic nature of appellant's conduct is revealed in one incident where the appellant was holding his victim in a headlock, grabbed the victim by the hair and physically tore a large section of hair and scalp from the victim's skull — the boy was, in effect, scalped.

See fn. 1 for a description of the internal injuries that were sustained by Mario Trevino as a result of this beating.

Accordingly, if punishment is the penalty for crime, no penalty, including the death penalty, can be too cruel for what this appellant did to this twelve-year-old boy. We find appellant's Eighth Amendment argument not well-taken.

We now turn our attention to the independent weighing process required by R.C. 2929.05(A) to determine whether the aggravating circumstance that appellant was found guilty of committing outweighs the mitigating factors in this case.

R.C. 2929.05(A) states in pertinent part:
"Whenever sentence of death is imposed pursuant to sections 2929.03 and 2929.04 of the Revised Code, the court of appeals and the supreme court shall upon appeal review the sentence of death at the same time that they review the other issues in the case. The court of appeals and the supreme court shall review the judgment in the case and the sentence of death imposed by the court or panel of three judges in the same manner that they review other criminal cases, except that they shall review and independently weigh all of the facts and other evidence disclosed in the record in the case and consider the offense and the offender to determine whether the aggravating circumstances the offender was found guilty of committing outweigh the mitigating factors in the case * * *."

The aggravating circumstance found to exist herein was kidnapping. Appellant presented no witnesses in the penalty phase of this proceeding or any evidence in mitigation. The only "evidence" for the defense was an unsworn statement by appellant, in which appellant expressed regret for his actions, apologized to the Trevino family and expounded upon his troubled childhood and history of alcoholism.

R.C. 2929.04(B) provides that, in weighing the mitigating factors, the sentencing authority "shall consider, and weigh against the aggravating circumstances proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the nature and circumstances of the offense, the history, character, and background of the offender, and all of the following factors:

"(1) Whether the victim of the offense induced or facilitated it;

"(2) Whether it is unlikely that the offense would have been committed, but for the fact that the offender was under duress, coercion, or strong provocation;

"(3) Whether, at the time of committing the offense, the offender, because of a mental disease or defect, lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law;

"(4) The youth of the offender;

"(5) The offender's lack of a significant history of prior criminal convictions and delinquency adjudications;

"(6) If the offender was a participant in the offense but not the principal offender, the degree of the offender's participation in the offense and the degree of the offender's participation in the acts that led to the death of the victim;

"(7) Any other factors that are relevant to the issue of whether the offender should be sentenced to death."

We find that, of the above enumerated factors, numbers (1), (2), (3) and (6) do not exist under these facts. Number (4) is not compelling, as appellant was almost twenty-two years old at the time of the offense, substantially beyond the age of majority. As to factor number (5), appellant's past history of criminal convictions or delinquency adjudications cannot be characterized as insignificant. Therefore, this factor will be afforded no weight in our balancing herein. State v. Steffen (1987), 31 Ohio St.3d 111, 31 OBR 273, 509 N.E.2d 383.

As to factor number (7), we have considered all the evidence of appellant's unfortunate childhood and his struggle with alcoholism. Our view of the totality of the evidence compels us to conclude that the aggravating circumstance of kidnapping outweighs these combined mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt.

Appellant asserted that he had been an alcoholic since his early youth. Additionally, appellant argued unsuccessfully at his trial that as a full-blooded Shoshone Indian, he possessed an enzyme deficiency such that alcohol affected him in a different manner than those of Anglo-Saxon ancestry. We find the evidence in the record conflicting on the issue of appellant's purported diminished capacity at the time of the murder. Fully seven witnesses, including a police officer, observed and talked with appellant shortly after the murder had occurred. Not one of the seven recalls appellant being intoxicated. Additionally, appellant's actions on the evening in question tend to reveal a man who was alert and conscious of his actions and speech. Accordingly, we will not disturb the jury's finding that appellant did not suffer from a diminished capacity to form the requisite intent to commit murder on the evening in question.

Likewise, our consideration of "the nature and circumstances of the offense, the history, character, and background of the offender" do not alter this conclusion. The nature and circumstances of this offense are so horrendous that it would be difficult to imagine factors that might be mitigating. The history, character and background of the offender have already been explored supra, and we find that the aggravating circumstance outweighs the mitigating factors beyond a reasonable doubt. The mitigating factors are deemed insufficient on the basis that the evidence demonstrates that appellant's personal history did not impair his capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control his actions. State v. Steffen, supra.

R.C. 2929.05 requires that, in addition to weighing the aggravating circumstances and the mitigating factors, this court review the proportionality of death sentences. The purpose of this review is to determine whether the penalty of death is unacceptable in the case under review because it is disproportionate to the punishment imposed upon others convicted of the same crime. Pulley v. Harris (1984), 465 U.S. 37; see, also, State v. Steffen, supra.

Discharging our mandated duty, we find that compared with other capital cases decided by this court, the sentence herein is neither excessive nor disproportionate. The penalty of death has previously been imposed in cases involving kidnap-murder, and the sentences have been upheld as appropriate. State v. Rogers (1985), 17 Ohio St.3d 174, 17 OBR 414, 478 N.E.2d 984, and State v. Maurer, supra. These cases are similar to the case now before us in that each involved terrorizing and even torturing the minor victims by beating and/or sexual assault before ultimately murdering them. As stated supra, we find the sentence of death neither excessive nor inappropriate in the case sub judice given its facts and its similarity to other cases which have resulted in a sentence of death.

In conclusion, we uphold appellant's convictions and sentence of death. We are persuaded from our review of the record that appellant received a fair trial and a thorough review by the court of appeals. We are convinced that the sentence of death is appropriate under the facts of this case.

Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals is hereby affirmed.

Judgment affirmed.

MOYER, C.J., SWEENEY, LOCHER, HOLMES, WRIGHT and H. BROWN, JJ., concur.


I join in the judgment, syllabus and opinion. I write separately because the opinion states that a proof-beyond-all-doubt standard is not required before a death penalty may be imposed. This may be a correct statement of the law, but I do not want my assent to that principle of law to be misconstrued. In every capital case, each of us must independently consider the appropriateness of the death penalty. The responsibility is not only to guard against error, but also to make a de novo determination. In discharging that responsibility I believe that any doubt concerning the defendant's guilt is a legitimate matter for our consideration.


Summaries of

State v. Morales

Supreme Court of Ohio
Sep 2, 1987
32 Ohio St. 3d 252 (Ohio 1987)

finding sufficient evidence to support element of creating a risk of serious physical harm where "the jury could reasonably conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant removed [the child victim] from the place where he was found for the purpose of committing a felony or of inflicting serious physical harm."

Summary of this case from Hill v. Mitchell

noting that photographs of victim's injuries were probative of capital defendant's intent and deliberation

Summary of this case from State v. Tibbetts

In State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, 513 N.E.2d 267, this court determined that numerous gruesome photographs depicting the scene of a murder and the body of the victim both before and during the coroner's examination were neither repetitive nor cumulative and that the probative value of the photographs outweighed the danger of unfair prejudice to the defendant.

Summary of this case from State v. Treesh

In State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, 513 N.E.2d 267, we reiterated that the question whether an emotional outburst in a murder trial improperly influences the jury is a matter to be resolved by the trial court.

Summary of this case from State v. Benge

In State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, 513 N.E.2d 267, a twelve-year-old boy was savagely beaten to death in revenge for something his brother had done.

Summary of this case from State v. Richey

In State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, 257-258, 513 N.E.2d 267, 273-274, we stated that "in capital cases, this court has, in State v. Maurer (1984), 15 Ohio St.3d 239, 15 OBR 379, 473 N.E.2d 768, set forth a stricter evidentiary standard for the introduction of photographs.

Summary of this case from State v. Frazier

In Morales, this court upheld the admission of no fewer than thirty-one photographs of the victim's bloody, bruised and broken body, all of which were unquestionably more gruesome than those of the victim herein.

Summary of this case from State v. Thompson

observing that such photographs are generally considered subject to Evid.R. 403, but that "a stricter evidentiary standard" applies in capital cases

Summary of this case from State v. Tyus

stating that an emotional outburst by the victim's brother during cross-examination of the defendant's father did not prejudice the defendant and did not deny him fair trial

Summary of this case from State v. Chacon

In State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, certiorari denied, 484 U.S. 1047, 108 S.Ct. 785, the Ohio Supreme Court determined that numerous gruesome photographs depicting a murder scene and the victim's body both before and during the coroner's examination were neither repetitive nor cumulative, and that the probative value of the photographs outweighed the danger of unfair prejudice to the defendant.

Summary of this case from State v. Woodward

In State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, 257, the Ohio State Supreme Court sets out the standard to be applied for the admissibility of photographic evidence in capital cases.

Summary of this case from State v. Reynolds

In State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, the Ohio Supreme Court observed that the probative value of each photograph must outweigh the danger of prejudice to a defendant in a simple balancing test of relative values, and the photographs must not be repetitive or cumulative in nature.

Summary of this case from State v. Myers

In State v. Morales (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 252, 513 N.E.2d 267, the Supreme Court discussed the test for determining if an emotional outburst during a murder trial by a spectator related to the victim requires reversal.

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

State v. Morales

Case Details

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

Court:Supreme Court of Ohio

Date published: Sep 2, 1987

Citations

32 Ohio St. 3d 252 (Ohio 1987)
513 N.E.2d 267

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