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September 3, 2004

Another interesting Ohio case

Yesterday in State v. Richards, 2004 Ohio 4633, 2004 Ohio App. LEXIS 4204 (Ohio App. Sept. 2, 2004), Judge James Sweeney in a dissent continued to spotlight Blakely issues in the application of Ohio's state sentencing laws. Recall that, as detailed here, Judge Sweeney and his colleague Judge Michael Corrigan had an interesting debate over the applicability and reach of Blakely in Ohio last week in State v. Taylor, 2004 WL 1900333, 2004-Ohio-4468 (Ohio App. Aug 26, 2004).

In Richards Judge Sweeney was simply calling for the defendant's sentence to be remanded for consideration of Blakely issues, but the case is interesting and noteworthy because it involved the imposition of a three-year sentence when the offense of conviction provided a statutory range of between one and five years. But, as Judge Sweeney correctly notes, under Ohio's statutory sentencing laws "the court could only deviate from the minimum sentence by making judicial findings beyond those either determined by a jury or stipulated to by the defendant." Specifically, in this case, the trial court imposed a sentence of three years rather than one year based on a finding that the "the shortest prison term will demean the seriousness of the offender's conduct or will not adequately protect the public." Ohio Revised Code § 2929.14(B).

I have discussed at length here how Ohio's laws governing the imposition of maximum sentences raise deep jurisprudential issues about the meaning and reach of Blakely. Judge Sweeney's dissenting opinion in Richards expressly highlights — and the majority's opinion in Richards implicitly rejects — that the same tough Blakely issues arise whenever an Ohio judge imposes a sentence above the statutory minimum.

Though I do not think these issues have yet come before the Ohio Supreme Court, it is only a matter of time before Buckeye Justices will need to start grappling with Blakely's meaning for Buckeye justice.

September 3, 2004 at 07:18 AM | Permalink

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