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Commentary and analysis of Ohio criminal law and whatever else comes to mind, served with a dash of snark.  Continue Reading »


Case Update

Nothing out of DC, but the Gang of Seven in Columbus more than makes up for it, with a half-dozen decisions, all of them notable.  In State v. Diar, where the court affirmed the conviction of a woman who killed her 4-year-old child, but vacated the death sentence because the jury had been instructed that all twelve had to agree on life imprisonment or death.  It's been the law since 1996 that a single juror's objection to a death sentence takes that penalty off the table.

Several civil decisions of note.  In Cheap Escape Co. v. Haddox, the court voids a forum selection clause which provided that any action had to be brought in the Franklin County Municipal Court, despite the fact that all of the dealings occurred in Summit County.  The court held that the jurisdiction of municipal courts is limited to actions which have a territorial connection to the court.  Selection clauses for common pleas courts are unaffected, since their jurisdiction isn't limited in that fashion. 

 In Byrd v. Knuckles, the court says that child support arrearages can be modified by agreement of the parties, and in Grundy v. Dillon, it confronts the situation of a juror who withheld information during voir dire.  The court decides that in order to obtain a new trial on that basis, the movant has to show that an accurate response would have provided a basis for challenging the juror for cause.  Good luck with that.

Two other decisions, one civil and one criminal, merit more extensive treatment, as we say in the law biz, and I'll provide that on Wednesday.  As for the courts of appeals...

Civil.  1st District holds that attorney who confesses cognovit judgment on behalf of debtor doesn't represent the debtor, can't be sued by him for malpractice... 8th District reverses denial of motion to vacate judgment, says that where defendant files affidavit alleging he didn't get served with complaint, that overcomes presumption of valid service, and court must at least hold hearing on motion... Ohio court where divorce granted retained jurisdiction over custody issue, even after wife and children moved to Virginia, says 9th District; extensive discussion of Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act... 10th District rejects claim of promissory estoppel re commercial lease, says that tenant's expressed intent not to be bound until formal lease signed made owner's reliance on oral promises unreasonable as a matter of law...

Criminal.  Defendant argues that indictment for felonious assault on police officer is defective under Colon because it omits mens rea requirement as to victim's status, 9th District affirms, says that peace officer status is strict liability... Must've been a three-day plea hearing:  defendant pleads no contest to 49 counts, 10th District rejects claim that plea hearing was deficient, notes that judge went through each crime, explaining penalties, and took extensive evidence on factual basis of each charge... 9th District rejects petition for postconviction relief on basis that attorney failed to investigate defendant's mental condition, says that defendant is not claiming insanity and thus cannot establish prejudice, since mental condition showing diminished capacity not a defense in Ohio... Trial court continued case on May 8, 2006, because of lack of jurors, nothing happened until defendant filed motion to dismiss for lack of speedy trial in June of following year; that unexplained delay can't be condoned, says 12th District, reverses denial of motion to dismiss...

Rolling the dice.  Criminals generally have a history of making bad decisions, and that proclivity continues once they're charged with a crime.  This week's Exhibit "A" is the defendant in State v. Banks, who got charged with kidnapping his girlfriend, beating her up, stealing her car, fleeing from the police, and assorted other crimes.  The state offered a plea deal in which he'd get an agreed five-year sentence.  He took the plea, but rejected the agreed sentence.  The judge gave him fourteen years instead.  He appeals, claiming that his sentence was disproportionate.  You've read that story, and you know how it ends.

Appearance of impropriety, anyone?  Plaintiffs sue home contractor for violations of Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, contractor counterclaims for breach of contract.  After judge directs verdict for contractor, judge engages in discussion with owner of company about a potential job at judge's home, tells him he'll call him after trial is over.  Judge admits exchange, but denies motion to recuse because conversation "was done outside the hearing of the jury."  9th District rejects assignment of error regarding recusal, but at least reverses grant of directed verdict.


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