11th District Criminal Case Update

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I skipped last week, so I’ll cover the past two weeks of opinions today.  The big news is Chardon High School shooter T.J. Lane’s sentencing appeal, so that goes to the front of the line.

State v. Thomas M. Lane, III, 2014-Ohio-2010
The opinion is almost as long as every other opinion from the past two weeks combined, and a large part of that is spent examining the events of that day.  He was bound over to be charged and tried as an adult and pled guilty.  His antics at his sentencing were adequately covered by the media elsewhere.  The court gave him three consecutive life sentences without parole, plus 37 extra consecutive years.

Lane raises the issue of mandatory bind-overs and life-without-parole sentences for people who were juveniles when they committed their crimes.  The constitutionality of mandatory bind-overs for juveniles is already in front of the Ohio Supreme Court in State v. Alexander Quarterman.  The case has amicus support from a lot of different organizations, including the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, which Yours Truly signed for.  Lane loses the argument here, but depending on how Quarterman goes that could change.

Lane then challenges the constitutionality of life-without-parole for juveniles.  The US Supreme Court recently ruled that mandatory life without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional.  The Court gets around that here by saying it was discretionary, not mandatory, and upholds it.  Expect this to get sent up to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Finally, he challenges his sentences.  As high-profile as this case is, the chance of success is the same as all the other sentencing appeals I’ve covered.  And that’s before he acted like a complete asshole at his sentencing hearing.  Rice, Cannon, Wright.

State v. Johnson, 2014-Ohio-1875
Don’t try to appeal a case without an appellate attorney.  If you do it wrong, you lose.  For example, if you ask the court to accept an appeal almost a year after the deadline, and you’ve had all that time to read the rules and do it right, but you still file the wrong paperwork, your appeal gets dismissed.  Cannon, Grendell, Wright.

State v. Wilson, 2014-Ohio-2014
Typos don’t get you out of your sentence.  When Wilson was in court to plead guilty to Grand Theft and Safecracking, the judge explained that the State would have had to prove he stole an amount greater than $7,500.  The court reporter made an error and wrote “$500” in the transcript.  The audio clearly said $7500.  The reporter filed an affidavit explaining the mistake.  Wilson doesn’t get a do-over.  Grendell, Cannon, O’Toole.

State v. Demeo, 2014-Ohio-2012
Demeo got busted as part of a multi-county car theft ring.  Just a local boy working hard to support his girlfriend, two kids and heroin habit.  He ended up pleading guilty to two counts of Grand Theft.  He didn’t bother to show up for his sentencing.  After the warrant did its work and he got back into court, he explain that he didn’t show up last time because – wait for it – he had car trouble.  The court gave him maximum consecutive 18-month sentences.  He wanted treatment and says the court didn’t consider the right factors and make the right findings for the prison sentence.  The extensive criminal background, skipping court, and skipping his interview at the treatment center he was asking for didn’t help his argument.  Sentence upheld.  O’Toole, Cannon Grendell.

State v. Meyers, 2014-Ohio-2011
A pro se appeal, and he gets a split decision on one issue.  Not bad, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  Meyers got drunk, stood in his driveway and shouted at his neighbors.  Apparently he had already motivated the neighbors to install a surveillance camera.  He applied for an attorney, but there’s no jail time on the line for minor misdemeanors so he’s not entitled to one.  He asked for trial by jury, but was denied and the case was tried to the bench.  He was found guilty and fined $50.   He appeals the denial of an attorney and a jury, but loses both because it’s such a minor crime.  He says the State didn’t give him all the evidence he was entitled to examine, but the record says it did, and Meyers didn’t indicate what he might be missing.  In an unusual step, the Court had accepted an audio recording instead of a written transcript.  Meyers argues that he was entitled to a written one.  Court says no.  Cannon, Rice.  O’Toole dissents on the transcript issue, because it’s clear that a defendant is entitled to a written transcript.  I agree, but that and a dollar won’t even get you a cup of coffee.

State v. Moore, 2014-Ohio-1870
Another pro se appeal.  Moore pled guilty to two counts of aggravated robbery with firearm specifications, and one count of kidnapping.  He got consecutive terms on the charges and consecutive terms on the firearm specifications.  He appealed.  Clue #73 that you should have hired an appellate lawyer: when the Court starts its analysis of your argument with the words, “while not entirely clear from his brief, it appears that Mr. Moore is arguing…”  It “appeared” that he was arguing that the firearms specifications should have merged under the law, and that the State broke the plea agreement by sticking him with two.  But he’s wrong about the law, and he signed a written guilty plea that was fully explained by the court and included both specifications.  O’Toole, Wright.  Grendell concurs in judgment only.

State v. Warner, 2014-Ohio-1874
A win!  But it’s for the State.   The cops pulled Warner over, and he got out and took off.  They checked out the trunk and found a whole bunch of supplies for making meth.  The State argued that the cops didn’t need a warrant because it was an “inventory search” pursuant to department policy.  But the cop testified at the suppression hearing that he didn’t actually know the department’s policy, so the judge said the search was no good.  The appellate court noted that Warner didn’t own the car, and by taking off he abandoned it.  That means he didn’t even have the standing to challenge the search in the first place.  Reversed.  Rice, Cannon, Wright.

State v. Johnson, 2014-Ohio-2015
Another pro se appeal done wrong.  A jury found Johnson guilty of theft.  Johnson immediately appealed.  She hasn’t been sentenced yet.  Judgment isn’t final until the sentence, so it’s too soon to appeal.  Appeal dismissed, but at least she’ll get another chance after she is sentenced. Wright, Cannon, O’Toole.