by Joseph Powell

This tragic crime resulted from a domestic incident which got out of hand when the defendant, Joseph Powell, stopped by to talk with his estranged common-law wife, Patricia Burns, during a temporary break in their relationship after five years of living together, and was confronted by the victim, Rodney Macon.

The upstairs apartment in the two-family house where the incident occurred was in the defendant's name, and he went in with his own keys. Mr. Macon was in the bedroom with Ms. Burns, and the defendant told her that he wanted to talk with her, and that he wanted Macon out of his house. Mr. Macon said, "OK, I'm leaving," as the defendant saw him standing on the bed with a wine bottle in his hand, as for a weapon or protection; and the defendant grabbed a knife out of the kitchen for his own protection, and let him leave the bedroom and apartment.

After the defendant waited a few seconds (verified by Ms. Burns and her son, Shondo Burns, 11) (T 345-346, 428), figuring that Macon had time to leave, but not sure, the defendant took the knife with him for protection, with plans to lock the downstairs door.

As the defendant arrived at the top landing, he observed Mr. Macon at the bottom of the stairway by the door. But Macon only pretended that he was leaving, and raced back up the 13-step stairway, hollering that he would kill the defendant, and attacked him with a broomstick. The defendant reactively stabbed him in shock, in an instinctive reaction, not of his own volition.

Macon then backed down the stairs, dripping blood on the steps and smearing blood on the wall near the 3rd and 4th steps from the top, and again on the wall near the 4th step from the bottom, as he bumped into the wall going down the stairway.

Patricia Burns vindictively and falsely claimed that the defendant chased the victim to the bottom of the stairway, and stabbed him as he was trying to get out the door.  But the testimony of a detective, two police officers, a civilian, photos and even Ms. Burns herself, testified to the blood drops and blood smears at the top of the steps; lending supportive proof that Mr. Macon came back up the steps to attack the defendant.

Detective Joseph Greene testified that he saw blood leading up the steps, blood on the wall, and 13 drops of blood on the 3rd step from the top of the stairs. (T 559, 566, 577).

Officer Thomas Ross testified that he saw blood at the bottom of the steps, leading up the steps, on the wall and at the top of the steps. (T 475, 491).

Officer Michael Gardner testified that he saw blood on the wall, two to three feet up from the 9th step down (4th step up) (T 541).

Patricia Burns testified that she saw a blood smear on the wall about two steps up (T 362-363).

Civilian Erie McDonall, who saw the area a few days after the stabbing when he took Ms. Burns' daughter, Bridget, to pick up some clothes, testified that he saw blood on the 3rd step from the top and on the wall near the same step as well. (T 686).

Further, Patricia Burns testified very clearly that at the time of the stabbing Mr. Macon was at the bottom of the stairway with his back against the door (T 358, 361), but that the defendant did not go below the 5th step from the bottom (T 350); which implies that the defendant was at least 5 steps up, plus a couple of feet, from Mr. Macon at that time.

One should consider the distance we are talking about here.  The point being, it couldn't have happened that way.  Even with the defendant's arm span, it couldn't have happened as Ms. Burns described it. [see diagram]

If one looks at the path of the wound in Macon's right shoulder, as described by Deputy Coroner Dr. Robert Challener, you notice that it is a "downward and to the left wound" (T 600-601), which is consistent with Mr. Macon being about 24 inches below the defendant at the time, but certainly not with the defendant being over 5 steps above him, and being right-handed, as the defendant is.

Ms. Burns also stated that Macon did not come back up the stairs after supposedly being stabbed at the bottom of the stairway (T 361).  Under that theory, there should be no blood smears on the wall, nor blood drops up the steps.  And it is physically impossible to stab someone five steps up from them.

Ms. Burns' testimony was a vindictive effort to try to recreate an incident at the bottom of the steps, which didn't happen.  And it is incumbent upon the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant purposely caused the death of another.

Patricia Burns' handwritten statement was altered when typed up by Detective Joseph Greene (of Cleveland Heights Police Department, in case no. CH 86-07842, on October 25, 1986), to add the comments, "I have something for both of you" and "you will be sorry if you come out of that room", and that the defendant "rushed into the bedroom screaming at Macon to get out," while her handwritten statement states that as soon as the door opened, Macon ran out and down the steps.

Patricia Burns' son, Shondo Burns (11), admitted on cross examination that part of the statement written for him by police officer Thomas Ross was not true; such as he did not in fact see the defendant kick the bedroom door in and enter into the bedroom, as claimed in his police statement (T 434-436, 438-439).

Strangely, Shondo Burns heard Macon say that as he was leaving, but did not hear the defendant make those "threatening" comments (T 423-424, 440-442).  Further, since Macon was in the bedroom at that time, and the defendant was in the hallway between Patricia's and Shondo's bedrooms, Shondo would have heard any comment made by the defendant since he heard Macon's comment, but he did not.  That's because those threatening comments were never made by the defendant.

Ms. Burns told her two best friends, Erie and Rose McDonall (a couple who testified for the defendant, and who Ms. Burns and her two children stayed with for five months since the day of the incident), the defendant's mother and two of his cousins that the defendant acted in self-defense.

The defendant had requested to take a polygraph test, but his attorney said he didn't think that the prosecutor would go for it.

Ms. Burns told the court at the preliminary hearing in Cleveland Heights that the apartment was in the defendant's name; but the grand jury chose to indict him for burglary in spite of that.

And, after all of this injustice, the parole board wants the defendant to do more time, compounding the injustice, by adding 10 years to his sentence.  The defendant prays for justice.

I am sorry for what happened, and feel that I have been unjustly charged and sentenced.  But I'm so glad that God Almighty knows the truth, and one day it will come to the surface.

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