Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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In the case before the Supreme Court of Ohio, the issue was the quantum of evidence required to satisfy the probable-cause standard for determining whether a juvenile-court offender may be bound over to adult court. The case arose from an incident where a juvenile, E.S., was in a stolen car during a police chase, with his friend E.M., who was driving. After the car crashed, E.M. was found dead from a gunshot wound. A gun was found under the car’s passenger seat where E.S. had been seated, and E.S.'s DNA was found on the trigger and the grip of the gun. A bullet that had been fired from the gun was found in the driver's side front door. E.S. was charged in juvenile court with multiple offenses relating to the stolen car, the gun, and E.M.’s death.The juvenile court found probable cause for some charges but not for involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide. The state appealed the juvenile court's decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed the juvenile court’s judgment. The state then appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio.The Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. The court held that the state had presented sufficient evidence to establish probable cause to believe that E.S. had committed the offense of involuntary manslaughter. The court found that the state’s evidence, both circumstantial and direct, was sufficient to establish probable cause. The court held that the juvenile court and the Court of Appeals had erroneously held the state to a higher burden than required for establishing probable cause in a bindover proceeding. The case was remanded back to the juvenile court for further proceedings. View "In re E.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's petition for a writ of mandamus seeking to compel the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Bureau of Sentence Computation (collectively, DRC) to calculate his minimum sentence to be fifteen years, holding that the court of appeals did not err.In 1996, Appellant was convicted on three counts of rape, one count of kidnapping, and one count of aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced him to three life sentences and two sentences of ten to twenty-five years, to be served consecutively. DRC calculated Defendant's sentence to be forty-five years to life. Appellant later brought this mandamus action, arguing that DRC erroneously calculated his minimum sentence by adding three ten-year minimum sentences associated with his life sentence. The court of appeals granted DRC's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err in deciding that DRC correctly calculated Appellant's parole eligibility under Ohio Rev. Code 2967.13(F). View "State ex rel. Stokes v. Dep't of Rehabilitation & Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus against Warden Tom Watson of the North Central Correctional Institution, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief.Appellant was convicted on sixty-one counts of pandering obscenity involving a minor and sentenced to thirty-six and one-half years in prison. Appellant later filed this habeas petition alleging that he was being unlawfully imprisoned. The court of appeals granted the warden's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed and denied Appellant's motion for judicial notice, holding that Appellant was not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus because he did not show that his maximum prison sentence had expired or that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to later resentence him. View "State ex rel. King v. Watson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus ordering the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to produce a copy of a kite that he alleged he had exchanged with the "cashier" of the North Central Correctional Complex (NCCC), where Relator was incarcerated, holding that Relator was entitled to the writ.According to Relator, an NCCC inspector denied Relator's kite request on the ground that she was not responsible for printing kites. After the department denied Relator's grievance Relator brought this mandamus action seeking production of the kite. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding (1) Relator showed that he had a clear legal right to the requested relief and that the department had a clear legal duty to provide it; and (2) Relator was not entitled to statutory damages. View "State ex rel. Clark v. Ohio Dep't of Rehabilitation & Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals in this criminal case, holding that it does not violate the separation of powers doctrine to tie the judge's ability to reduce the registration period for a person convicted of arson to a recommendation from executive branch officials.In 2012, the General Assembly passed a law codified at Ohio Rev. Code 2909.13(A) establishing a registry of people convicted of arson-related crimes that applied to those convicted of arson or aggravated arson, as well as those convicted of a related attempt or conspiracy or complicity offense. At issue was Ohio Rev. Code 2909.15(D)(2)(b), which provides a limited exception for the lifetime-registration requirement. Defendant in this case pleaded guilty to a single count of arson, for which he was required to register annually for life. At sentencing, challenged the constitutionality of the reduced-registration provision. The trial court denied the challenge, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there is no separation of powers violation within Ohio's arson offender registration scheme. View "State v. Daniel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's writ of habeas corpus arguing that the sentencing court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Appellant's case after it issued a final judgment in 2007, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Pursuant to a plea agreement in which Appellant agreed to testify against a potential codefendant, Appellant pleaded guilty to murder with a firearm specification and aggravated robbery. The convictions were vacated based on Appellant's failure to cooperate with prosecutors. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of murder aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary and three-year firearm specifications. On appeal, Appellant argued that the sentencing court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his case pursuant to State v. Gilbert, 35 N.E.3d 493 (Ohio 2014), after it issued final judgment in 2007. The court of appeals agreed but dismissed the petition because Appellant's 2007 convictions and sentence were still valid and his maximum sentence had not expired. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err in dismissing the petition because Appellant was not subject to immediate release from prison or confinement. View "Driggins v. Bracy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing two complaints Appellant filed seeking writs of mandamus and prohibition, holding that Appellant was not entitled to writs of mandamus or prohibition vacating his convictions and sentence.Appellant filed both a complaint for a writ of mandamus seeking to compel the trial court to vacate his criminal convictions and sentence and a complaint for a writ of prohibition against the trial court raising the same underlying issues. The court of appeals denied the writs, holding (1) Appellant had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law through direct appeal to challenge any violation of his right to counsel; and (2) Appellant was not entitled to a writ requiring the trial court to review issues related to the withdrawal of his counsel on direct appeal. View "State ex rel. Boyd v. Tone" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated its decision in State v. Gwynne, __ N.E.3d __ (Ohio 2022) (Gwynne IV) and affirmed the judgment of the Fifth District Court of Appeals in this sentencing dispute, holding that the court of appeals properly applied the plain language of Ohio Rev. Code 2953.08(G)(2) in concluding that the record supported the trial court's consecutive sentence findings.Appellant pleaded guilty to seventeen counts of second-degree burglary, among other offenses. The trial court made the findings required under Ohio Rev. Code 2929.14(C)(4) for imposing consecutive sentences and ordered the felony sentences to be served consecutively, for an aggregate sentence of sixty-five years. The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in Gwynne IV, holding on de novo review that the findings required by section 2929.14(C)(4) to impose consecutive prison sentences on an offender must be made in consideration of the aggregate term. The Supreme Court then granted the State's motion for reconsideration, vacated its decision in Gwynne IV and affirmed the court of appeals, holding (1) Ohio Rev. Code 2953.08(G)(2) requires an appellate court to defer to a trial court's consecutive sentence findings, and those findings must be upheld unless they are clearly and convincingly not supported by the record; and (2) the appellate court properly applied that standard. View "State v. Gwynne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief in this action brought under Ohio's Public Records Act, Ohio Rev. Code 149.43, by Kevin Payne against Kelly Rose, an inspector at the Richland Correctional Institution (RCI), holding that Payne did not have a cognizable claim in mandamus.Payne, an inmate at RCI, sent a public-records request to Rose for a copy of, among other things, JPay support ticket number MACI 1220002928. Rose responded that she obtained the requested record and provided a copy of it to Payne. Payne brought this action seeking a writ of mandamus ordering Rose to produce the requested record and statutory damages. The Supreme Court denied mandamus relief, holding (1) because Payne received his requested record before instituting this action he never had a cognizable claim in mandamus; and (2) statutory damages did not accrue. View "State ex rel. Payne v. Rose" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction for violating Ohio Rev. Code 2907.06(A)(2), holding that a jury can reasonably infer that a defendant knew a victim to be substantially impaired so as to convict him of sexual imposition under the statute.Defendant was charged with violating Ohio Rev. Code 2907.06(A)(1) and (2) for his sexual contact with woman who was blind and suffered from unspecified developmental disabilities. The jury found Defendant guilty of both counts of sexual imposition. The court of appeals reversed Defendant's conviction for violating section 2907.06(A)(2), concluding that the victim was not substantially impaired. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) knowledge of a victim's "substantial impairment" can be proved both by the defendant's knowledge of the victim's blindness and evidence of the nature of the interactions between the defendant and the developmentally disabled victim; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to find that Defendant knew that the victim's blindness, together with her developmental disabilities, substantially impaired her ability to appraise the nature of and control of Defendant's conduct. View "State v. Jordan" on Justia Law