Man Convicted on Attempted Murder Charges

Douglas Francis, left, stands with his client, Danny Morgan, Sr., during the three day trial in the Meigs County Court of Common Pleas. Photo by Carrie Gloeckner.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The initial report is the base information of the case, however, readers should be advised that in the coverage provided of each day of the trial there is information and possibly language some readers may find disturbing. The Meigs Independent Press simply wants readers to be aware of the graphic nature of some of the content in the article. Also, the identity of the victim has not and will not be identified by the MIP.)

POMEROY, Ohio – Following a two day trial, a man has been found guilty on charges related to an assault in 2016.

Danny Morgan, Sr., was charged with one count of Attempted Murder, a felony of the first degree, and two counts of Felonious Assault, both felonies of the second degree. He was found guilty on all charges. The charges stem from an event occurring late in the evening on March 18 and into the early morning hours of March 19, 2016 in which Morgan was accused of nearly fatally stabbing a man at the victim’s residence on Lasher Road in Meigs County, Ohio. Morgan had been indicted on May 2, 2016.

Morgan was represented by attorneys Karyn Justice and Douglas Francis. The Meigs County Prosecuting Attorney James K. Stanley and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tommy Saunders presented the state’s case. Judge I. Carson Crow heard the case.

Morgan is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Crow and is facing up to 11 years in prison.

Trial Day One – March 22, 2018

The first day of trial began on March 22, 2018 with the jury selection beginning at 9 a.m. The jury was seated at 12:15 p.m.

Opening statements were made by the defense and prosecution outlining their cases. According to the opening statement made by Stanley, the evidence would show that Morgan stabbed the victim, with the intent to kill him. The prosecution maintained that following an argument over going to town for more alcohol and the defendant allegedly being owed money from the victim along with drinking whiskey and a threat to the victim’s dog, Morgan stabbed the victim in the neck. The victim woke up in the hospital 10 days later having been in a coma.

In the defense’s opening statement, Justice said Morgan had called 911 for help, but did not receive it. She said that the victim had admitted to raping Morgan at an earlier date after giving Morgan a pill and as a result Morgan called 911 for help three times. The defense would also be showing the issues Morgan was having after being beat with a baseball bat just days before.

Judge Crow gave the jury instructions following opening statements.

Following opening statements and instructions, the first witness for the prosecution, Carly Johnson, was called to testify. Johnson had been working for Meigs 911 as a dispatcher at the time of the incident. She initially took the phone calls from Morgan. The jury listened to recordings of the three phone calls to 911. In the first phone call, Morgan states repeatedly that the victim had admitted to raping him.

“The guy just admitted to raping me,” Morgan could be heard saying on the recording. The dispatcher asked if he needed medical care, Morgan said no and she asked if he wanted the Sheriff’s Office. Johnson transferred the call. Only a small portion of the call could be heard at that point because once the 911 dispatcher hung up, the recording stopped.

A short time later, about 12:35 a.m., Morgan called 911 again. He was again requesting that law enforcement respond. He maintained that the victim had admitted to raping him, that “I ain’t nobody’s bitch,” he could be heard saying. Again, Johnson transferred the call the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office.

A third call then came in around 1:12 a.m. and Morgan states, “I killed a man on Lasher Road.” At that point, EMS was dispatched to the residence and the call was again transferred to the Sheriff’s Office.

The next to take the stand was Meigs County Sheriff’s Office Dispatcher, Twila Childs. Childs testified to receiving the calls from Morgan and that prior to the three involved directly with this case, Morgan had called several times that night in reference to his daughter and the incident several days in which Morgan was hit with a baseball bat by said daughter. The daughter had been taken into custody that night on a warrant. Childs thought initially that the call was in reference to the previous issue. It was not.

“I could tell he sounded very intoxicated,” Childs testified. The portion of recording is brief, but Childs could be heard talking to Walker and being very surprised at the allegation of rape. On the second call, Morgan is heard telling Childs, “if I killed a man you’d come out.”

Childs told Morgan that he needed to wait until morning before making a statement concerning the rape allegation when he sobered up. A statement can not be taken by law enforcement while the person is intoxicated. During the course of the second call, however, Childs said with the statements Morgan was making, she dispatched deputies. Childs did not inform Morgan that deputies were in route, however.

When the third call came in, Childs notified deputies that Morgan had stated he killed a man at the Lasher Road residence. “The man’s dead now. I killed him,” Morgan could be heard on the 911 recording along with stating his life was over now.

On cross examination, Justice asked Childs what was funny, as Childs had smirked at one point while the audio was being played and Morgan was saying he had been raped. “What about Mr. Morgan reporting a rap is funny,” Justice asked.

Justice went on to ask Childs if the advice to sleep it off while remaining in the same house with the an alleged rapist would be the same if the victim reporting was a woman. Childs indicated yes.

On redirect, Stanley asked about when Morgan said the rape had occurred. Childs testified that Morgan had said the incident had happened a couple of months before. It was not an active crime scene and therefore was treated differently. Childs said all they could do was take a report and that could not happen until Morgan was sober to give a report.

Following Childs, Deputy Perry took the stand for the prosecution. He testified that he along with other deputies and an officer with Middleport Police Department responded to the Lasher Road residence. Perry testified that when the defendant came out of the house, Morgan was covered in blood. While other officers were detaining Morgan, Perry said he went to get gloves and plastic restraints instead of the regular handcuffs. Morgan was taken into custody and placed in the back seat of Perry’s cruiser. Morgan was cooperative at that point according to Perry, however, once in the cruiser became irritated. Perry testified to repeatedly telling Morgan his Miranda Rights. Once Morgan was at the Sheriff’s Office, his shirt was soaked in blood to the point it had to be cut off of him. Photographs before the shirt was removed and after were shown to the jury. Morgan’s black eye and bruising were visible from the baseball bat injury days before as well.

Testimony ended on day one of the trial at 4:15 p.m. Judge Crow admonished the jury not to speak about the case or seek information about the case.

Trial Day Two – March 23, 2018

The first witness for the state of the day was Deputy Ridenour. Ridenour testified to also arriving at the Lasher Road residence and seeing the defendant with blood on him. The deputy said Morgan came out of the house stating he had killed the man inside the house. Ridenour also testified to seeing the victim on floor with blood on arm, face, head and shirt. The victim was unconscious at that point. The sene was secured and EMS personnel were brought in to treat the victim. Ridenour testified to talking photos of the scene. Those photos were then shown to the jury.

Sgt. Mohler was next to testify. He testified to seeing the defendant come out of the house with blood on him and stating he had killed the man inside the house. As the shift supervisor, on cross examination concerning what Childs had told the defendant to stay at the residence and sleep off the alcohol if that was appropriate and would that be told to a female victim as well. To which Mohler responded that it depended on the situation. Mohler also stated on redirect concerning action to take on such an allegation that law enforcement, “Can’t take a report of that nature or any other serious crime from an intoxicated person.”

Shane Hanshaw, special agent with Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations (B.C.I.), told the jury about different types of blood staining. He testified to a “major blood letting event” occurring on and near the couch.

The state continued the case with Deputy Meyers explaining the process for collecting evidence at the scene including the knife used to stab the victim. Deputy Meyers broke the seal on the evidence box and the knife was shown to the jury.

Sgt. Bill Gilkey with the Gallia-Meigs Major Crimes Task Force was next and was questioned at length concerning the interview he and Deputy Ridenour conducted with the defendant at the Middleport Jail. The recording of the interview was also played for the jury. At the beginning of the testimony, Morgan complains of a headache and needing his prescription medication to which Gilkey told him at the end of the interview he would see if they could get his prescriptions. Morgan talked about his head injury and told Gilkey and Ridenour that he had a concussion and had been in the hospital just days prior. Gilkey even commented on Morgan having a break in his orbital lobe. The interview with Morgan and the officers began at 8:40 p.m. on March 19, 2016 and concluded at 9:20 p.m.

In the interview Morgan outlined the events of the day leading up to the stabbing including seeing a pill that reminded him of the night the victim gave him a pill and he believed sexually assaulted him. Morgan maintained that the victim admitted to raping him and that was all part of what led to the stabbing. On cross examination by Justice, Gilkey said he did not see any injuries to Morgan, even though in the photos taken of Morgan shown to the jury, the injury to his face was very visible. “I didn’t see any injuries,” Gilkey responded to Justice. The question of Morgan’s functionality as a result of the concussion and other issues were repeatedly referenced by the defense. The state kept referring to Morgan admitting that he had stabbed the victim and that if Morgan had issues that he should have stated he was in pain or needing medical attention.

The victim told his side of the story following a break for lunch. The victim’s voice has been permanently altered and could barely speak above a whisper when he testified. According to the victim, he gave Morgan a place to stay for awhile after the altercation Morgan had with his daughter. He also stated of the relationship with Morgan, “It was good I thought.”

The victim said the two had been to town for various errands and Morgan purchased a bottle of whiskey. The two went back to the Lasher Road residence. They began drinking sometime between 5-6 p.m. Around 10 p.m. was when the argument between the two began. According to the victim, Morgan wanted to go to town for more liquor and the victim said no, he would not go. The argument then turned to money that Morgan believed the victim owed him. The victim said no and that was when the victim said Morgan threatened to kill the victim’s German Shepherd puppy. In the process of bending down to pick up the dog, the victim said he felt a severe sharp pain in his neck and believed at first he had been punched. “I felt it, but I thought be just hit me,” the victim told the jury.

The victim had actually been stabbed in the neck. The victim stated he just wanted to get to the couch and doesn’t remember much after that until he woke up at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio 10 days later. He had been air lifted from a landing zone set up at Meigs Elementary to the hospital in Columbus. He testified that he had five surgeries in a six month period to correct the damage as much as they could to his voice box. The victim denied raping Morgan responding he “absolutely” denied the allegation.

On cross examination, the victim was asked by Justice if he would admit to raping someone to which the victim responded, “Depends on who it was.”

He was also asked about his prior time in prison, to which the victim responded, “which time?”

At that point, about 2:45 p.m., the jury was dismissed for a break while the attorneys and judge discussed the victim’s answer. The jury was back in the courtroom a few minutes later. Justice continued questioning the victim and again asked about prison. The victim stated he had been in prison in 1975 and again in 2010. The victim also stated he did not recall picking Morgan up from the hospital in Columbus, although Morgan maintains that was who picked him up. The victim again denied the rape claim and on redirect said, “I bet everything I’ve told you is consistent.”

The victim left the witness stand about 3:07 p.m. and the state rested it’s case at that point.

Danny Morgan leaving the courtroom during one of the breaks during the three day trial. Photo by Carrie Gloeckner.

The defense began their case presentation with Morgan testifying. In what became a very lengthy time on the stand, Morgan went through what he believed to have been the events concerning that night. Throughout his testimony and cross examination by Stanley, Morgan became confused and appeared to have issues following along with questions. He answered questions about the situation with his daughter, the injury from that altercation along with the rape allegation and the circumstances he found himself basically homeless when the victim offered to allow him to stay with him.

Morgan said the victim stated he would kill Morgan if he told anyone about the alleged rape. Morgan claimed to have been making phone calls from the bedroom to police and that the victim would not allow him to leave the residence. Stanley pointed out that during the three conversations with dispatchers, Morgan never stated he was being held against his will. Morgan maintained that he was just trying to “get someone to help me,” when making the 911 calls. Morgan also stated that he did not want the victim dead and that was why he called back the third time, but the prosecution pointed to the fact Morgan stated he had killed a man on the 911 tape.

According to Morgan’s testimony, the victim came at him with the knife having threatened to kill him. Morgan scuffled a little with the victim in the living room. Morgan said he “blacked out” and didn’t remember exactly what happened next, but the result was the victim had been stabbed three times in the neck and Morgan had the knife in his hand. “I was trying to protect myself,” he told the jury. Testimony concluded for the day at 6 p.m.

The jury was again admonished by Judge Crow not to discuss the case with anyone or amongst themselves and they would reconvene Monday morning.

Trial Day Three – March 26, 2018

The trial resumed about 9 a.m. with Dr. Gregory Janson, Ph.D., PCC-S testifying for the defense. Dr. Janson is an Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies with Ohio University in the Social and Public Health College of Health Sciences and Professions. Dr. Janson is a professional clinical counselor specializing in traumatology with research including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, bullying, domestic abuse, family life and emotional maltreatment as well as a forensic evaluator who testifies as an expert witness. The doctor testified to the injuries that Morgan received and the symptoms of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury that he exhibited when he was interviewed by Dr. Janson and through the interview and records of law enforcement in the case.

Dr. Janson testified under questioning from Francis that from an early age, Morgan had been through a traumatic experience having been a survivor of the Shady Side disaster in which and entire town was wiped out in a flooding incident when a reservoir wall broke sending a huge wall of water crashing into the town. Morgan survived and was six years old at the time. Dr. Janson also talked about rape myths that men can be raped and what that does to the emotional and mental state of the victim. The doctor explained the behavior Morgan exhibited and his faulty thought processes.

The defense then rested their case and closing arguments were made. Stanley maintained the state’s position that Morgan was aware of what he was doing and that the allegation of rape was to get the victim in trouble. “He had to make something up to get deputies out there,” Stanley said and maintained that Morgan knew what he was doing and had planned to kill the victim at least from the time of the second phone call.

Justice went back to the testimony of Dr. Janson and that Morgan was also a victim in the case, but the jury didn’t see it that way.

The jury left the courtroom to begin deliberation on the case at 3:55 p.m. and returned with a guilty verdict on all counts at 7:23 p.m. Morgan was remanded to the custody of the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office and is to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. March 27, 2018 by Judge Crow. Morgan faces a maximum of 11 years in prison for the convictions.