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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

A decision from SCOTUS in a criminal case, Rosemond v. US, in which Justice Kagan gives comprehensive, and at times colorful, treatment of the issue of complicity.  Although Rosemond was convicted under a Federal statute relating to use of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime, the opinion doesn't focus on that, instead honing in on the concept of mens rea:  did the defendant know, and thus intend, that a gun would be used?  It may well have broader application, to things like the firearm specifications under Ohio law.  We'll take a closer look at that later in the week.  (Speaking of which, only four posts this week:  I'm in a rape trial, have a brief due in the 8th on Wednesday and the Supreme Court the week after, and...  Oh, who am I kidding?  I'm going to kick back and binge-watch the second season of House of Cards.  So there.)

The Ohio Supreme Court came down with two decisions in criminal cases last week.  File State v. Romage under It Doesn't Matter Anymore.  The case concerned the proper interpretation of the Ohio child enticement statute, which prohibits a person from "soliciting" a child under 14 to accompany him without the permission of his parents.  Romage had been charged because he'd paid a kid to help carry boxes up to his apartment; in oral argument, Justice O'Neill indicated he'd done something very similar.  The court held that the statute's failure to include any criminal or otherwise improper purpose rendered it unconstitutional, and we'd discuss that a bit more, except the General Assembly amended the statute last year to do just that, so Romage, O'Neill, and others whose only motive is to enlist cheap child labor are safe.

As the numberless legions of my regular readers could have predicted, State v. Johnson comes out as a win for the defense, the court unanimously concluding that the defendant's appellate attorney is entitled to see his pre-sentence report.  If you're saying, "Why wouldn't he be?" right now, that was pretty much the reaction of the justices in the oral argument I wrote about here (beneath the fold). 

There was another decision, Mansaray v. State, which had some criminal connection:  it concerned Mansaray's attempt to collect under the wrongful imprisonment statute when the 8th District reversed his conviction and prison sentence because it found the evidence against him had been seized illegally.  We'll talk about that one later this week or next.

The defendant in State v. Coleman raises an interesting argument in the appeal of his conviction of aggravated robbery under RC 2911.01(B), which prohibits a person from attempted to remove a gun from a law enforcement officer while the officer is acting within the course and scope of his duties.  The charge arose from Coleman's grappling for the officer's weapon after the officer had ordered Coleman to exit his vehicle to undergo a patdown search.  Coleman contended the order was illegal under the 4th Amendment, and "a law enforcement officer cannot be said to be acting within the course and scope of his official duties when said officer's actions operate to deprive a citizen of his Fourth Amendment rights."  The 2nd District affirms the conviction, asserting a little too frankly that violating a person's 4th Amendment rights is indeed within the scope and course of a police officer's duties. 

I had a murder trial once where an issue arose, and as we trouped to the sidebar, I asked the court reporter to come along.  The judge minced no words in telling me that he was the one who determined whether the court reporter was necessary in a sidebar.  He didn't find it to be on that occasion, or any other during the remainder of the trial, and I've since found that it's not uncommon for judges to hold sidebars "off the record." 

In State v. Davis, the 1st District concludes that CrimR 22's requirement that "in serious offense cases all proceedings shall be recorded" includes sidebar proceedings, too.  It then renders its ruling completely toothless by finding that Davis hadn't shown how he was prejudiced by the judge's failure.  I imagine if the judge had recorded the sidebars, Davis would've been able to show how he was prejudiced by the judge's not recording the sidebars.  Head starting to hurt.  Must.  Stop.  Reading.

Wonder what the hourly rate will be when he gets out?  In State v. Slaughter, the 2nd District concludes that the trial court erred in not notifying Slaughter that he would be required to perform community work service if he failed to pay his court costs.  Slaughter had been convicted of murder and felonious assault, and sentenced to 21 years to life.  


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