ELYRIA — Two of out three judges on a 9th District Court of Appeals panel that reviewed the rape conviction of Jeremiah Charlton concluded that the guilty verdict that sent him to prison for eight years was “against the manifest weight of the evidence,” but it wasn’t enough to change his fate.
“Because the Ohio Constitution requires the concurrence of three judges for a reversal, this court affirms Mr. Charlton’s conviction,” the decision, released Monday, said.
Appeals court judges Carla Moore and Donna Carr wrote that Charlton, who acted as his own attorney for most of his 2011 trial, was able to call the victim’s account of what happened on May 28, 2011, into question.
“In short, in her direct examination, (the victim) described a random attacker who quickly gained unauthorized access to her house and raped her, a terrible experience at the hands of an anonymous attacker,” the two judges wrote.
The victim, who was 67 years old at the time of the attack, testified during the trial that Charlton had approached her outside her Lorain home while she was outside doing yard work. He then snuck into her house and attacked her as she came out of the bathroom, threw her on a bed and raped her, she said.
When he was later questioned by police, Charlton said he had consensual sex with the woman.
Under questioning by prosecutors, the victim denied that she had given Charlton any personal information, but Carr and Moore found that hard to believe given Charlton’s cross-examination of her.
The judges wrote that he knew a lot about her life, including the names of family members, where one of her sons worked, and about her divorce and support payments her ex-husband owed her. He even knew where she liked to go bowling.
“Through his questioning, however, he demonstrated that there must have been more than a quick, anonymous attack,” the judges wrote.
Charlton had insisted that he had done work for the victim, including mowing her lawn and giving her dog a heat treatment.
The judges also pointed out that Charlton didn’t flee when the victim’s children returned home, introducing himself, leaving his phone number and asking if he should return at a later date to do more work.
Moore and Carr wrote that the victim’s son became angry with his mother when he found Charlton in the house. After Charlton left, the son asked his mother, “’What did you do?’ and that is when (the victim) alleged that Mr. Charlton raped her,” the decision said.
Judge Jennifer Hensal disagreed with her colleagues’ findings. Although she conceded there were conflicting accounts of what happened that day, she felt the jury who found Charlton guilty was in the best position to determine who was telling the truth.
“The victim’s testimony was consistent and adamant on the fact that Mr. Charlton raped her,” Hensal wrote. “Further, there was physical evidence in the form of redness and bruising on her wrist attested to by all the witnesses that corroborated (the victim’s) testimony that Mr. Charlton forcibly pulled her into a bedroom and restrained her during the rape.”
Charlton, who appealed his conviction without the help of an attorney, raised several other procedure problems he saw with the case, including prosecutorial misconduct, but the judges rejected those arguments.
According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Charlton is due to be released from prison in July 2019.