Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The placement of a suspect in the front seat of a police vehicle during a traffic stop is not alone determinative of whether the suspect has been subjected to a custodial interrogation. In this case, a state highway patrol trooper initiated a traffic stop of Defendant. The trooper asked Defendant to step out of his car and sit in the front seat of the patrol car, where the trooper asked Defendant how much alcohol he had consumed that evening. The trooper then asked Defendant to perform field sobriety tests. Defendant was subsequently cited with two counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the statements he made to the trooper while he sat in the front seat of the patrol car were obtained without the procedural safeguards established in Miranda v. Arizona. The court granted the motion to suppress. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the relevant inquiry as to whether a suspect has been subjected to a custodial interrogation is whether, under the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable person in the suspect’s position would have understood himself or herself to be in custody. View "Cleveland v. Oles" on Justia Law

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Appellant, who was sentenced to a twelve-year term after he was arrested while on parole, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction improperly calculated his total sentence and violated his due process and equal protection rights by taking him into custody following his arrest without the “required on-site hearing.” The court of appeals dismissed the petition on the basis of res judicata. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred by dismissing Appellant’s habeas corpus petition on the basis of res judicata because res judicata is not among the affirmative defenses that may be raised in a Ohio R. Civ. P. 12(B) motion to dismiss; but (2) Appellant’s petition was properly dismissed because it failed to state a claim. View "Johnson v. Moore" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals erred on double jeopardy grounds in reversing the trial court’s decision to grant Appellants’ motions to dismiss an indictment that charged them with ethnic intimidation. Appellants filed their motions to dismiss the indictments brought against them in the Scioto County Court of Common Pleas because they had already been convicted in municipal court for aggravated menacing, which is the predicate offense for the charges of ethnic intimidation that were brought against them in the dismissed indictment. The Supreme Court agreed with the decision of the trial court, holding that, for double-jeopardy purposes, Appellants’ aggravated-menacing convictions were the same offenses as those charged in the dismissed indictment. View "State v. Mutter" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the court of appeals erred in affirming the judgment of the county court of common pleas suppressing evidence seized during the warrantless search of an unattended book bag conducted by a school employee and the school principal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the school’s protocol requiring searches of unattended book bags to determine ownership and to ensure the safety of its contents furthers a compelling governmental interest in protecting public school students from physical harm; and (2) the school employees’ search of the unattended book bag belonging to Defendant was limited to fulfilling the purposes of the school’s search protocol and was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Polk" on Justia Law

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Matthew Shaughnessy, an attorney who requests and reviews police incident reports, alleged that, on five different occasions, the City of Cleveland failed to produce copies of police incident reports in a reasonable amount of time, which he contended was eight business days. Shaughnessy asked the Supreme Court to order the City to respond to future requests within eight business days and also requested $1,000 in statutory damages. The Supreme Court denied the request for relief and the request for statutory damages, holding that Shaughnessy failed to show that the City had a clear legal city to produce, or that he had a clear legal right to receive, the requested records within eight business days. View "State ex rel. Shaughnessy v. City of Cleveland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights

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As part of an independent investigation into the murder conviction of Adam Saleh, Donald Caster, an Ohio attorney engaged by the Ohio Innocence Project, requested police records related to the arrest and investigation of Saleh. The Division of Police of the City of Columbus rejected the request, stating that no records could be produced until the “completion” of Saleh’s criminal case. By the time Caster made his request for public records, Saleh’s direct appeals had been exhausted for more than four years. Caster then filed this original action in mandamus. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ, holding that the specific-investigatory-work-product exception from required disclosure of public records set forth in Ohio Rev. Code 149.43(A)(2)(c) does not extend beyond the completion of the trial of the underlying criminal case at issue. View "State ex rel. Caster v. Columbus" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of three counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of rape, and other offenses. Defendant was fifteen years old at the time he committed the crimes. The trial court sentenced Defendant to the maximum prison term for each count. The sentence totaled 141 years in prison. At issue before the Supreme Court in this appeal was whether, pursuant to Graham v. Florida, a term-of-years prison sentence that exceeds a defendant’s life expectancy violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments when it is imposed on a juvenile nonhomicide offender. The Supreme Court answered this question in the affirmative and remanded the cause to the trial court for resentencing, holding (1) Graham’s categorical prohibition of sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juveniles who commit nonhomicide crimes applies to juvenile nonhomicide offenders who are sentenced to term-of-years sentences that exceed their life expectancies; and (2) therefore, Defendant’s 112-year sentence violates the Eighth Amendment. View "State v. Moore" on Justia Law

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A complaint was filed in the juvenile court alleging that Appellant engaged in conduct that would be considered aggravated robbery if committed by an adult. Appellant was sixteen years old at the time of the alleged offense. The State filed a motion to transfer Appellant to the general division of the common pleas court to be tried as an adult pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 2152.10(A)(2)(b) and 2152.12(A)(1)(b), which provide for mandatory transfer of juveniles to adult court in certain circumstances. After a hearing, the juvenile court automatically transferred the case. Appellant moved to dismiss the ensuring indictment charging him with two counts of aggravated robbery with accompanying firearm specifications and transfer his case back to juvenile court, arguing that mandatory transfer of juveniles is unconstitutional. The trial court overruled the motion. Appellant subsequently entered pleas of no contest to the two counts of aggravated robbery. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that mandatory transfer of juveniles to adult court without providing for the protection of a discretionary determination by the juvenile court judge violates juveniles’ right to due process. View "State v. Aalim" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of two counts of murder. The trial court sentenced Appellant to death. The Supreme Court affirmed. Appellant later filed an amended application for postconviction DNA testing pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 2953.71 through 2953.84. The county common pleas court denied the application. Appellant appealed, arguing that section 2953.73(E)(1) violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because it discriminates between capital and non-capital criminal defendants, fails to provide appellate review, and results in the arbitrary and capricious application of the death penalty. The Supreme Court held (1) section 2953.73(E)(1) violates the constitutional right to equal protection, but the unconstitutional portion of the statute can be excised to create a constitutionally sound procedure that provides capital offenders an appeal of right to the Supreme Court; and (2) this constitutional analysis applies equally to section 2953.72(A)(8), which summarizes the procedure for appealing a denial of postconviction DNA testing. Therefore, the Court applied the severance remedy to the unconstitutional portions of the statutes. Consequently, Appellant will be permitted an appeal of right to the Supreme Court from the denial of his amended application for postconviction DNA testing. View "State v. Noling" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of aggravated murder, among other crimes. Defendant was sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentence, holding (1) defense counsel’s absences did not violate Defendant’s rights to counsel or due process; (2) the trial court did not violate Defendant’s rights to due process and a fair trial when it denied his motion for relief from prejudicial joinder; (3) trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance with regard to two suppression issues; (4) no prejudicial error occurred with how the jury view was conducted; (5) no prejudicial error occurred with regard to the evidence submitted at trial; (6) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant’s Ohio R. Crim. P. 29 motion; (7) no prejudicial error occurred during the sentencing phase of trial; and (8) Defendant death sentence was appropriate and proportional. View "State v. Spaulding" on Justia Law