September 2009 Archives
The only major opinion out of the Supreme Court last week was the unanimous reversal of the 8th District's decision in State v. Cargile. Cargile had been arrested, and before taking him to jail, the officer asked if he had any contraband. He denied it, and during the booking process, well, what do you know: he had some marijuana in his pants cuffs.
One of the things you learn by doing criminal appeals is that people in prison have an awful lot of time on their hands, and often decide to spend it by writing copious letters to their attorneys explaining their views of the appropriate appellate strategy. Or, if they don't have attorneys, by repeatedly filing pleadings attacking the reason they have an awful lot of time on their hands. Pro se pleadings featured prominently in the 8th's work this past week.
Okay, I lied again. I said on Friday we'd have an abbreviated week here, with posts just on Monday and Tuesday. Turns out that the only Ohio Supreme Court decision from last week, State v. Cargile, deserves some more extensive treatment than I'd give it here, and there are a couple of 4th Amendment decisions out of the 8th District that are worth talking about. So we'll do that on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Besides, the major reason for the abbreviated schedule was that I was going to spend the weekend converting my lawn into something customarily found in residential areas, as opposed to African wildlands. Unfortunately, this weekend apparently coincided with the advent of Cleveland's Gray Days, an annual event stretching roughly from October to May.
Let's head straight for the stuff from the courts of appeals, where it's a fairly meager slate...
The "next" US Supreme Court term has already started; although the Court traditionally begins its term on the first Monday in October, this month had oral arguments in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. So I figured it might be time to take a look at some of this issues the Court will be looking at this year.
That was reputedly Yogi Berra's comment on seeing Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle hit back-to-back homers, and it fits the Ohio Supreme Court's latest foray into allied offenses. The court took another shot at it again last week, and there's serious concern we could be deja vu-ing our way all the way back to State v. Rance.
To paraphrase the song title, it ain't easy being a judge, but there are things which make it easier. The statutes exactly prescribe what a judge must tell a defendant who is not a US citizen before accepting a plea, and the Supreme Court has spelled out what a judge must tell a defendant about post-release controls at sentencing. Nonetheless, some judges prefer to wing it, and this week's cases reveal the often predictable results of that choice.
The saga of State v. Crager comes to a conclusion. Sort of. For those late to the party, the Supreme Court held in Crager that testimony by a DNA analyst who wasn't the one who actually performed the test didn't violate the defendant's confrontation rights, because scientific tests weren't testimonial under Crawford v. Washington. This past summer, in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the US Supreme Court held that they were. SCOTUS also remanded Crager back to the Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of Melendez-Diaz.
My post a month ago (which has links to previous posts discussing the two decisions) suggested how the Ohio Supreme Court might handle this. "Punting it back to the trial court" wasn't one of the options I foresaw, but last week, that's exactly what the court did, deciding to let the trial court "address the admissibility of the DNA evidence admitted at the trial in light of the holding in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts."
What's to address? The facts aren't in dispute; it's purely a question of law, and one which should be addressed by the highest court of the state. The court did the same thing in 2007, in State v. Oliver (discussed here), where the court considered SCOTUS' decision in Michigan v. Hudson, which had held that the exclusionary rule didn't apply to violations of the "knock and announce" rule. Despite determining that because "the people of Ohio have a paramount interest in knowing how their courts will interpret and apply Hudson, we have a duty to see that Hudson is addressed as expeditiously as possible," the court remanded the case back to the trial court to "reconsider its ruling in light of Hudson." So what happened? The defendant pled out, got six months in jail, and almost three years later there's still no definitive ruling on Hudson's application.
The appellate courts did actually address some issues, so let's take a look at those...
Demon Weed Update. While arguments can be made that marijuana presents no more danger to the public weal than alcohol, and is far less harmful than legal substances like tobacco, there is no question that it ranks far below other drugs, like crack, cocaine, heroin, PCP, etc. on the risk scale. One would anticipate that, in a rational world, the $40 billion or so we spend on the War on Drugs would be devoted to the investigation and prosecution of those selling and using those more harmful drugs.
It's been five years now since the US Supreme Court's decision in Crawford v. Washington revolutionized the Confrontation Clause. A couple decisions from the appellate districts, and an oral argument in the Ohio Supreme Court, indicate that there's still work to be done in sorting it all out.
Romell Broom was supposed to get the needle yesterday (see story below) for kidnapping, raping, and killing a 14-year-old girl in 1984. His judicial oddyssey to avoid execution over the past 25 years provides an interesting study of the quirks of death penalty law, habeas corpus, and, of all things, Ohio's public records statute, RC 149.43.
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