Articles Posted in Constitutional 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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Relator filed an original action in mandamus against the Cuyahoga County sheriff seeking to compel, pursuant to Ohio’s Public Records Act, the production of all offense or incident reports in the possession, custody or control of the sheriff’s office in which Edward Fitzgerald was identified as reported, complainant, or victim. Respondent, the public records manager for the sheriff, denied the request on the grounds that the records were security records pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code 149.433(A)(1). The Supreme Court sua sponte ordered Respondents to submit the documents sought by Relator so the Court could review them in camera to determine which reports satisfied the definition of a “security record.” The Supreme Court granted the writ in part and denied it in part, concluding that certain records were not security records and were subject to release with the redaction of exempt information. View "State ex rel. Miller v. Pinkney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional 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

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of aggravated murder and other offenses. The trial court sentenced Appellant to death for the murder conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s convictions and sentence, holding (1) the trial court did not err in admitting statements Appellant made during his interview with police; (2) Appellant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel during voir dire or during trial; (3) the trial court did not err by failing to hold a hearing to determine a witness’s competency to testify; (4) the trial judge was not biased against Appellant, and the trial judge did not err by refusing to grant a mistrial for the judge’s alleged biased interjections; (5) Appellant failed to establish plain error regarding the prosecutor’s closing statements; and (6) Appellant’s sentence was appropriate and proportional. View "State v. Cepec" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of eleven counts of aggravated murder, each containing death-penalty specifications. The trial court sentenced Defendant to death on each of the eleven counts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) courtroom closures did not deny Defendant his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial; (2) pretrial publicity did not deny Defendant a fair trial, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant’s requests for a change of venue; (3) the trial court did not impermissibly restrict voir dire of prospective jurors or abuse its discretion in denying challenges for cause to a number of prospective jurors; (3) the trial court did not act arbitrarily by permitting jurors to use their initials to signify assent to verdicts; (4) Defendant’s arguments regarding the manner in which the death specifications were alleged in the indictment and with the instructions submitted to the jury were unavailing; (5) the trial court did not err in its instructions to the jury during the penalty phase; (6) Defendant’s counsel did not render ineffective assistance of counsel; (7) Defendant’s constitutional challenges to death penalty statutes failed; and (8) the death sentences in this case were appropriate and proportionate when compared with similar capital cases. View "State v. Sowell" on Justia Law

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In this companion case to Crutchfield Corp. v. Testa, the Supreme Court considered Newegg, Inc.’s appeal from the imposition of Ohio’s commercial-activity tax (CAT) on revenue it earned from sales of computer-related products that it shipped into the state of Ohio. Newegg contested its CAT assessments based on its being operated outside Ohio, employing no personnel in Ohio, and maintaining no facilities in Ohio. In Crutchfield, the Supreme Court held that, under the Commerce Clause, the physical presence of an interstate business within Ohio is not a necessary condition for imposing the obligations of the CAT law given that the $500,000 sales receipts threshold adequately assures that the taxpayer’s nexus with Ohio is substantial. After applying Crutchfield’s holding in this case, the Supreme Court upheld the CAT assessments against Newegg. View "Newegg, Inc. v. Testa" on Justia Law

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The tax commissioner issued commercial-activity tax (CAT) assessments against the Crutchfield Corporation on revenue it earned from sales of electronic products that it shipped from the state of Ohio. Crutchfield, whose business in Ohio consisted solely of shipping goods from outside the state to its consumers in Ohio using the United States Postal Service or common-carrier delivery services, challenged the issuance of CAT assessments against it, arguing that Ohio may not impose a tax on the gross receipts associated with its sales to Ohio consumers because Crutchfield lacks a “substantial nexus” with Ohio. Citing case law interpreting this substantial-nexus requirement, Crutchfield argued that its nexus to Ohio was not sufficiently substantial because it lacked a “physical presence” in Ohio. The Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) affirmed the assessments issued by the tax commissioner. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the BTA and upheld the CAT assessments against Crutchfield, holding (1) the physical presence requirement recognized by the United States Supreme Court for purposes of use-tax collection does not extend to business-privileges taxes such as the CAT; and (2) the statutory threshold of $500,000 of Ohio sales constitutes a sufficient guarantee of the substantiality of an Ohio nexus for purposes of the dormant Commerce Clause. View "Crutchfield Corp. v. Testa" on Justia Law