934 N.E.2d 906 (Ohio 2010), 2009-2166, State ex rel. Steffen v. Court of Appeals, First Appellate Dist.

Docket Nº:2009-2166.
Citation:934 N.E.2d 906, 126 Ohio St.3d 405, 2010-Ohio-2430
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:STATE ex rel. STEFFEN v. COURT OF APPEALS, FIRST APPELLATE DIST.
Attorney:Dennis C. Belli, Columbus; and Timothy Young, State Public Defender, and Randall L. Porter, Assistant Public Defender, for relator. Joseph T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Philip R. Cummings, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for respondents.
Judge Panel:PFEIFER, LUNDBERG STRATTON, O'CONNOR, O'DONNELL, and CUPP, JJ., concur. LANZINGER, J., concurs in judgment only. BROWN, C.J., not participating.LANZINGER, J., concurring in the judgement only.
Case Date:June 03, 2010
Court:Supreme Court of Ohio
 
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Page 906

934 N.E.2d 906 (Ohio 2010)

126 Ohio St.3d 405, 2010-Ohio-2430

STATE ex rel. STEFFEN

v.

COURT OF APPEALS, FIRST APPELLATE DIST.

No. 2009-2166.

Supreme Court of Ohio.

June 3, 2010

Submitted April 20, 2010.

Page 907

Dennis C. Belli, Columbus; and Timothy Young, State Public Defender, and Randall L. Porter, Assistant Public Defender, for relator.

Joseph T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Philip R. Cummings, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for respondents.

PER CURIAM.

{¶ 1} This is an action for a writ of prohibition to prevent court of appeals judges from proceeding in the state's appeal from the decision of a trial court granting a motion for a new trial in a capital case. Because the court of appeals patently and unambiguously lacks jurisdiction to proceed in the appeal because it was not filed pursuant to R.C. 2945.67(A) and App.R. 5(C), we grant the requested extraordinary relief.

Facts

{¶ 2} In 1982, relator, David J. Steffen, was indicted for aggravated murder with capital specifications, rape, and aggravated burglary. The aggravated-murder charge was based on the intentional killing of Karen Range while committing or attempting to commit rape. After a jury found him guilty of all counts and recommended the death penalty, the trial court sentenced Steffen to death for the aggravated-murder conviction and to consecutive prison terms of seven to 25 years on his remaining convictions for rape and aggravated burglary. The court of appeals affirmed the convictions and sentence. State v. Steffen (Dec. 11, 1985), Hamilton App. No. C-830445, 1985 WL 4301, *18.

{¶ 3} This court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. State v. Steffen (1987), 31 Ohio St.3d 111, 31 OBR 273, 509 N.E.2d 383. We emphasized that Steffen's denial of the rape charge indicated lack of cooperation with law enforcement and that the evidence " leads to a compelling conclusion that a rape had occurred and that [Steffen] was the perpetrator." Id. at 118, fn. 11.

{¶ 4} Steffen subsequently filed a petition in a federal district court for a writ of habeas corpus. During the pendency of the federal case, the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (" BCI" ) conducted DNA testing of the vaginal-swab specimen taken during the victim's autopsy. DNA testing had not [126 Ohio St.3d 406] been available when Steffen was prosecuted. The test results eliminated him as the depositor of the semen. The federal district court then ordered the case returned to the common pleas court so that Steffen could exhaust his available state remedy for consideration of the DNA test results.

{¶ 5} In August 2006, Steffen filed a motion for leave to file a delayed motion for a new trial pursuant to Crim.R. 33 based on the newly discovered DNA test results. The state filed a response joining in Steffen's request for leave, and after the common pleas court granted him permission, Steffen filed his delayed motion for a new trial. Additional DNA testing by an outside laboratory confirmed BCI's results.

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The DNA on the victim's swab specimen was later matched to the DNA of a former Hamilton County Coroner's Office employee, who confessed to abusing the victim's corpse between the time of its arrival at the county morgue and the autopsy.

{¶ 6} On February 17, 2009, the court of common pleas reduced Steffen's rape conviction to attempted rape at the state's request. The court also denied Steffen's motion for a new guilt-phase trial, but granted his request for a new penalty-phase trial. The court stated that it was granting the new penalty-phase trial " [b]ecause the jury, the trial court, and the appellate courts all based their recommendations and conclusions as to the death penalty on a finding that [Steffen] raped the victim and was lying when he said he did not."

{¶ 7} The next day, the state filed a notice of appeal from " the February 17, 2009 decision of the trial court in which the trial court granted Steffen a New Trial as to the penalty phase of his capital murder case." The state's notice of appeal was not accompanied by a motion for leave to appeal the trial court's ruling.

{¶ 8} On March 16, 2009, the common pleas court filed a journal entry, which specified as follows:

{¶ 9} " For reasons set forth in [the court's] February 17, 2009 decision, the amended motion for a new trial is DENIED as to the guilt phase proceedings, the verdict for Count Two of the indictment is MODIFIED from rape to attempted rape, and the amended motion for a new trial is GRANTED as to the penalty phase of the proceedings.

{¶ 10} " It is therefore ORDERED that Defendant David Steffen's conviction as to Count Two of the Indictment be reduced from rape to attempted rape [R.C. 2921.03 as applied to R.C. 2907.02], a felony of the second degree; and it is further

{¶ 11} " ORDERED that the previously imposed sentence of death as to Count One of the Indictment, Aggravated Murder with Capital Specifications, and the [126 Ohio St.3d 407] previously imposed indefinite terms of imprisonment for Count Two, Rape be VACATED, and it is further

{¶ 12} " ORDERED that this case be scheduled for a new sentencing hearing." (Capitalization sic.)

{¶ 13} Steffen filed a notice of cross-appeal from the portion of the decision denying his request for a new jury trial on the issue of guilt. Later, he filed a motion in the Court of Appeals for Hamilton County to dismiss the state's appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the state failed to file a motion for leave to appeal the trial court's...

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