Dayton man found guilty of murder in fatal shooting, but not on gun charges

Parker Perry, Dayton Daily News, Ohio
·3 min read

Apr. 22—A Dayton man was found guilty of murder in a case that accused him of fatally shooting a man outside Sugar's Restaurant and Lounge in July, but he wasn't found guilty on the gun charges in the same case.

The verdict prompted defense attorney Lucas Wilder, who represented 45-year-old Emanuel Dennis, to move the judge to acquit his client or grant him a new trial.

"What happened to Mr. (John) Reese was a tragedy," Wilder told the Dayton Daily News. "Mr. Dennis testified at trial he is not the person who shot Mr. Reese."

Authorities accused Dennis of killing Reece, 49, of Trotwood on July 25, 2020. Dennis was in a car that struck Reece's car in the parking lot, according to court documents, and as Reece approached the driver's side of the vehicle that hit him he was shot.

Prosecutors alleged Dennis shot him.

"The defendant fled the scene of the shooting, but was located later that night and was taken into custody," the prosecutor's office said.

After a trial, the jury found Dennis guilty of murder (proximate result, felonious assault serious physical harm), but not guilty of a three-year firearm specification attached to the charge.

He was also found guilty of a charge of tampering with evidence.

But, the jury also found him not guilty of murder (proximate result, felonious assault deadly weapon), felonious assault (deadly weapon), having a weapon while under disability (prior drug conviction), and a second tampering with evidence charge. The jury wasn't able to come to a verdict on a felonious assault charge and a third tampering with evidence charge that was connected to the alleged gun.

"Since the evidence and theory presented at trial by the State was Mr. Reese's death was caused by a single gunshot fired by Mr. Dennis, I will be filing a motion to set aside the one guilty murder verdict because it is inconsistent, contrary to law or not supported by the evidence," Wilder told the Dayton Daily News.

That motion was filed Thursday morning. In it, Wilder says he expressed confusion over the verdicts immediately after they were read and reserved the right to appeal. It says that a doctor from the coroner's office who performed the autopsy testified that Reese was killed by a single gunshot wound.

"At trial the state's sole argument was that defendant shot Reese causing his death," the motion says. "No other theory was argued and no jury instruction was requested that defendant acted as an accomplice. He was charged, and prosecuted, as the lone shooter."

The defense wrote that the evidence showed the only possible way the defendant may have caused harm to Reese was by shooting him and that "there was simply no other evidence (or theory) presented as to how defendant caused serious physical harm to Reese."

"Defendant could not have caused the alleged serious physical harm without having been found to have used a gun," the motion says. "Without him possessing, and shooting, a gun there can be no guilty verdict on felonious assault or murder in this case or on this evidence."

When reached by the Dayton Daily News, the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office said:

"The defendant was convicted as charged of murder, the most serious count. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on some counts, and we will be making a decision on whether to have another trial on those counts."

University of Dayton law professor Thomas Hagel told the Dayton Daily News that specifications, like the gun specification Dennis was not convicted of, are filed along with charges but don't rely on each other. He said that a motion for acquittal after a verdict is common by defense attorneys but are rarely sustained.

Dennis remains in the Montgomery County Jail where he's been since his arrest on July 25.