Timing is everything
Okay, so I didn't post anything yesterday. I had to give a presentation - the annual case update - at the OACDL Death Penalty Seminar yesterday. I'm scheduled for nine o'clock. Riddle me this, Batman: how long does it take to drive from Cleveland to Columbus? About two hours, but figure a little more because they're holding the seminar at the Sheraton in the middle of downtown, and I'll be getting there at the tail end of rush hour. And then I have my time-honored tradition on any trip to Columbus of stopping for breakfast at the Waffle House in Medina. If you have self-esteem issues, stop at the Waffle House. You'll come out feeling better about yourself. Or worse, depending upon what you had to eat.
So why did I leave my house at 6:40, having to stop for gasoline to boot? After filling up, I fired up the navigation system in the Beemer, plugged in the address, then checked the time it figured I'd arrive.
Oh my. What to do?
I got there with five minutes to spare, pulled up to give my keys to the valet guy, only to be told that the parking lot they used was full, and I'd have to park at the self-serve lot two blocks away. "How about I just leave my car here and you figure it all out?" "Can't do that, sir." I pulled out a Jackson and gave it to him, said, "Make it happen," and darted inside.
My presentation went well. The laser light show is always a big hit, and my use of sock puppets to explain Ohio's sentencing law proved a real crowd-pleaser.
But the best part about it is the law changed as I talked. I told everybody about arguing that HB 86 sentencing applies to "cold cases" - rapes committed before SB 2 came into effect. (Did a post about that here.) And as I'm talking about, my buddy Jeff Gamso raises his hand and announces that the 8th District has just come down with a decision that very morning saying that people sentenced after the effective date of HB 86 had to be sentenced under its provisions, rather than the sentencing law in effect back before SB 2 was passed in 1996. So that means a defendant convicted of a 1993 rape doesn't do 10 to 25 - which means 25 in real life - he does a maximum of 11.
I also talked about State v. Morris, the 404(B) case that's been up to the Supreme Court twice from the 9th District. (Here's my post on the oral argument.) Damned if during my talk, the Supreme Court came down with the decision, and much to my surprise, held that any error in the admission of 404(B) evidence has to be reviewed under the constitutional standard, harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
And I talked about Ohio sentencing law, and the Supreme Court's decision on consecutive sentencing, and how it was just about impossible to get a sentence overturned, given the virtually unbridled discretion trial judges have. And then I find out that the 8th District also came down with a decision yesterday - reconsideration of a decision they'd handed down eight months ago - in which they held not that the judge didn't make the necessary findings to support consecutive sentences, but that the record "clearly and convincingly" failed to show that consecutive sentences were justified.
So I'll have plenty to talk about next week. And if that's what it takes to get some decent decisions out of Ohio courts, I'm willing to go the extra mile and do more seminars.
I'll just be a little better about keeping track of time.