Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Ohio Supreme Court

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The Cincinnati Enquirer filed two original actions in the Supreme Court seeking extraordinary writs. In the first case, the Enquirer sought a writ of mandamus to compel the county court judge to vacate his order sealing records relating to the prosecution of a defendant for a disorderly-conduct misdemeanor charge. In the second case, the Enquirer sought a writ of mandamus to compel the judge to produce criminal records for the past five years that had been incorrectly sealed and a writ of prohibition to prevent him from enforcing his orders to seal those records. The Supreme Court (1) granted the writ in the first case because the judge did not follow the proper statutory procedure in sealing the case; and (2) denied the writs in the second case because the Enquirer failed to establish a clear legal right to the records it requested. View "State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Lyons" on Justia Law

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Appellant submitted requests for the personnel records of six employees of the West Licking Fire District to Appellee, the person responsible for public records for the district. Less than three business days after he had made the requests, Appellant filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus. Appellee produced the documents two hours after the suit was filed. The court of appeals dismissed the complaint, concluding that the records were produced in a reasonable amount of time and that Appellant had engaged in frivolous conduct. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the district responded to Appellant’s request in a reasonable amount of time, and therefore, the court of appeals correctly dismissed the complaint; and (2) the court of appeals must hold a hearing before awarding attorney fees for frivolous conduct. View "State ex rel. Davis v. Metzger" on Justia Law

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Erin McCardle and Leatrice Tolls, protesters involved in the Occupy Cleveland movement in the Public Square area of Cleveland, were arrested and charged with a curfew violation under Cleveland Codified Ordinances 559.541. The ordinance prevents any person from remaining in the Public Square area between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. without a permit. The defendants moved to dismiss the charges, asserting that the ordinance violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The Cleveland Municipal Court denied the motions to dismiss. The defendants subsequently pled no contest to the curfew violation. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the cases, holding that the ordinance violated the First Amendment because Cleveland’s interests were insufficient to justify its limit on speech, and the ordinance was not narrowly tailored. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ordinance was constitutional under the United States Constitution, as it was content-neutral, narrowly tailored to advance a significant government interest, and allowed alternative channels of speech. View "City of Cleveland v. McCardle" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of the aggravated murders of his former mother-in-law, his five-year-old daughter, and his three-year-old son. The trial court sentenced Defendant to death for each of the three aggravated murders. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for a change of venue did not violate Defendant's rights to due process and to a fair trial by an impartial jury; (2) the trial judge did not abuse its discretion in seating two jurors that Defendant claimed were unfairly biased in favor of the death penalty; (3) there was no abuse of discretion in the admission of autopsy photos; (4) the prosecutor did not engage in misconduct; (5) Defendant’s counsel did not provide ineffective assistance; (6) Defendant’s challenges to the death penalty failed; and (7) there was no error in the sentences imposed. View "State v. Mammone" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to the murders of two women and to two counts of abuse of a corpse. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of aggravated murder with death specifications for the deaths of two girls. The trial court sentenced Defendant to death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, primarily, that (1) the State’s closing remarks in the penalty phase were “improper and substantially prejudicial,” but the Court’s independent evaluation and approval of the capital sentence cured the errors in the penalty-phase proceedings; (2) the trial court did not violate Ohio R. Evid. 404(B) by allowing a witness to testify that when she was thirteen years old Defendant exposed himself to her and offered her five dollars to engage in oral sex; (3) trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance; (4) the State presented sufficient evidence to convict Defendant of attempted rape or robbery in connection the murder of one of the girls; and (5) the sentence was appropriate. View "State v. Kirkland" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of aggravated murder and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Appellant was competent to stand trial; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Appellant to wear leg restraints in the courtroom, and even assuming that the order was an abuse of discretion, the error was harmless; (3) the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce evidence of weapons and ammunition not used in the murders, but the error was harmless; (4) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in introducing the former testimony of Dr. Delaney Smith, a psychiatrist, during the penalty phase, as defense counsel had a prior opportunity to cross-examine Dr. Smith; and (5) the trial court’s sentencing opinion was adequate. View "State v. Neyland" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of the aggravated murder of Nichole McCorkle and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction and the sentence of death, holding, among other things, that (1) the trial court did not err in admitting the autopsy report on McCorkle and by allowing a medical examiner, who did not conduct the autopsy, to testify about the autopsy results because an autopsy report that is neither prepared for the primary purpose of accusing a targeted individual nor prepared for the primary purpose of providing evidence in a criminal trial is nontestimonial and its admission into evidence at trial as a business record does not violate a defendant’s Sixth Amendment confrontation rights; (2) trial counsel did not provide constitutionally ineffective assistance; and (3) the trial court did not err by failing to appoint a neurologist to develop mitigation. View "State v. Maxwell" on Justia Law

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Appellant was charged with several offenses stemming from two separate shootings. Appellant was age seventeen when the offenses were committed. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of aggravated murder and sentenced to consecutive terms of life imprisonment without parole. On appeal, Appellant contended that his sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. The court of appeals affirmed, holding (1) Appellant’s sentence was proper under Miller v. Alabama because the sentence imposed in this case was not mandatory but, rather, an exercise of the trial court’s discretion; and (2) the trial court did not violate the Eighth Amendment by failing to consider Appellant’s youth as a mitigating factor in sentencing Appellant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Eighth Amendment requires trial courts to consider youth as a mitigating factor when sentencing a child to life without parole for homicide, and the record must reflect that the court specifically considered the juvenile offender’s youth as a mitigating factor at sentencing when a prison term of life without parole is imposed; and (2) because Appellant might not have been given the benefit of the consideration of youth as a mitigating factor, his sentence did not comport with the procedural strictures of Miller. View "State v. Long" on Justia Law

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Appellee was charged with criminal child enticement. The complaint alleged that Appellee had asked a child to carry some boxes to his apartment in exchange for money, which conduct allegedly constituted a violation of Ohio Rev. Code 2905.05(A). Appellee filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, asserting that the criminal child enticement statute was unconstitutional because it was overbroad. The trial court agreed and dismissed the complaint. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that section 2905.05(A) was unconstitutionally overbroad. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the criminal child enticement statute could not survive constitutional scrutiny due to its overbreadth. View "State v. Romage" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Appellant was arrested and charged with the murder of Amber Zurcher. The trial court granted a mistrial on Appellant’s first trial. Several trials followed, and after a fifth trial, another mistrial was declared. When the trial court set a sixth trial date, Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the prosecution was barred by the Double Jeopardy and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The trial court denied the motion. The State moved to dismiss Appellant’s appeal, arguing that the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to dismiss was not a final, appealable order. The court of appeals concluded that, in this situation where there had been multiple mistrials, the order was a final, appealable order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that an order denying a motion to dismiss on double-jeopardy grounds is a final, appealable order. Remanded. View "State v. Anderson" on Justia Law