Brookhart v. Haskins, No. 39132

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Citation205 N.E.2d 911,2 Ohio St.2d 36
Parties, 31 O.O.2d 20 BROOKHART v. HASKINS, Supt., London Correctional Institution.
Docket NumberNo. 39132
Decision Date31 March 1965

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2 Ohio St.2d 36
205 N.E.2d 911, 31 O.O.2d 20

HASKINS, Supt., London Correctional Institution.
No. 39132.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
March 31, 1965.

[205 N.E.2d 912] This is an action in habeas corpus originating in this court. In March 1961, the Grand Jury of Stark County returned an indictment charging petitioner, James Brookhart, with four counts of forgery and four counts of uttering of forged instrument. A second indictment was returned charging petitioner with one count of breaking and entering a business building in the night season with intent to steal property of value and with one count of grand larceny. Petitioner pleaded not guilty and while represented by counsel waived in writing a trial by jury. The case was tried to the court on March 23, 1961, on an agreement, in which petitioner acquiesced as shown by the record, that the state need only prove a prima facie case,

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and that there would be no cross-examination. After a presentation of the state's evidence, the court found petitioner guilty of three counts of forgery, three counts of uttering a forged instrument, the one count of breaking and entering and the one count of grand larceny. He was sentenced to the Ohio Penitentiary on each count, the sentences under the first indictment to run consecutively, and the sentences under the second indictment to run concurrently with those imposed under the first indictment.

James Brookhart, in pro. per.

William B. Saxbe, Atty. Gen., and William C. Baird, Columbus, for respondent.


It is petitioner's contention that he was not tried upon an indictment returned by a grand jury but rather upon one returned by the prosecutor. During the course of the trial, upon motion by the prosecutor, the court permitted the indictment to be amended to conform to the evidence. These amendments consisted of corrections of the check numbers and the amounts on two of the checks set forth in the indictment and also the correction of the name of the payee on one of the checks set forth in the indictment.

Section 2941.30, Revised Code, provides in part as follows:

'The court may at any time before, during, or after a trial amend the indictment, information, or bill of particulars, in respect to any defect, imperfection, or omission in form or substance, or of any variance with the evidence, provided no change is made in the name or identity of the crime charged.'

This section permits amendments to an indictment, which do not change the nature or identity of the offense.

The indictments presently before us were for forgery and uttering a forged instrument. They were complete on their face and properly charged the offense in issue. An amendment to an indictment for forgery or uttering, which merely changes the check numbers, amounts or the names of the payee as set forth in the indictment, is a matter of form, not of substance, and in no way affects the nature or identity of the offense as charged. Thus, such amendments relating to form and not substance are proper. Dye v. Sacks, Warden, 173 Ohio St. 422, 183 N.E.2d 380.

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Next, petitioner contends that he was denied due process because he was not confronted with his accusers nor was his counsel permitted to cross-examine the witnesses. The circumstances of which petitioner now complains arose from his own acts with the advice and consent of his counsel. These proceedings are all a matter of record in open court. The record shows that petitioner, although he did not [205 N.E.2d 913] plead guilty, agreed that all the state had to prove was a prima facie case, that he would not contest it, and that there would be no cross-examination of witnesses. To this, his counsel qcquiesced. In effect he said, 'I won't plead guilty but if the state can prove a prima facie case, I won't contest it.'

The record indicates the following in this respect:

'The Court: Ordinarily in a prima facie case--the prima facie case is where the defendant, not technically or legally, in effect admits his guilt and wants the state to prove it.

'Mr. Ergazos: That is correct.

'The Court: And the court knowing that and the prosecutor knowing that, instead of having a half dozen witnesses on one point they only have one because they understand there will be no contest.

'A. I would like to point out in no way am I pleading guilty to this charge.

'The Court: If you want to stand trial we will give you a jury trial.

'* * *

'The Court: Make up your mind whether you require a prima facie case or a complete trial of it.

'Mr. Ergazos: Prima facie, Your Honor, is all we are interested in.'

The procedure adopted here is similar to the plea of nolo contendere with an added condition that the state prove the prima facie case. This plea has never been either accepted or rejected in Ohio. It is urged what in view of the fact that pleas to an indictment are statutory, such a plea would not be acceptable in Ohio. This does not necessarily follow.

It has been pointed out that this ancient common-law plea is not in the strict sense a plea at all but rather a compromise

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between the accused and the state. As is stated in McNab v. State, 42 Wyo. 396, 402, 295 P. 278:

'It is frequently said that the so-called plea of nolo contendere is not a plea in the strict sense of that term in criminal law. 16 C.J. 404; 8 R.C.L. 117. In early cases, it was treated as an implied confession, and more in the nature of a petition than a plea. Hudson v. U. S., 272 U.S. 451, 454, 455, 47 S.Ct. 127, 71 L.Ed. 347. In modern practice it is cometimes referred to as being in the nature of a compromise between the state and the defendant. Young v. People, 53 Colo. 251, 125 P. 117; State v. La Rose, 71 N.H. 435, 52 A. 943; Tucker v. United States, 196 F. 260, 116 C.C.A. 62, 41 L.R.A. (N.S.) 70. It is not one of the pleas which defendant can interpose as a matter of right, but is allowable only under leave of court. * * *' See, also, 14 American Jurisprudence, 954, Criminal Law, Section 275.

The fact that the pleas which may be entered to an indictment are a matter of statute does not necessarily affect the right of a court to accept a plea of nolo contendere. In McNab v. State, supra, 42 Wyo. 403, 295 P. 280, it is said:

'We do not think the common-law recognition of the plea is inconsistent with the statutes of criminal procedure that fail to make specific provision for it. The use of the plea does not interfere with either the statutory rights of the defendant or the statutory authority of the court. The defendant still has the right to plead guilty or not guilty, if he so desires. The court may refuse to accept the plea and thus require a plea of guilty or not guilty. We are of opinion, therefore, that the plea of nolo contendere was a permissible plea in the case at bar. If it was not, it would perhaps be difficult to escape the conclusion that the contention that the judgment of the justice was unauthorized presents only a moot question. The defendant voluntarily and on the advice of counsel tendered the plea expecting to be fined and intending to pay the fine. * * *'

[205 N.E.2d 914] This plea is not a matter of right but one that requires the acquiescence of the court. Annotation, 89 A.L.R.2d 540, 563.

The fact that the procedure here was unusual did not affect the validity of the proceedings, nor did it constitute a denial of a fair trial. Petitioner was afforded all of his constitutional

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rights. There is no question that petitioner could have pleaded guilty to these charges if he had so desired and been sentenced accordingly, or he could have pleaded not guilty and forced the state to put on every witness it had and fully contested them not only through cross-examination but also by presenting a defense. This he did not choose to do. However, petitioner chose a middle ground. In open court, while represented by counsel, petitioner agreed that, although he would not plead guilty, he would not contest the state's case of cross-examine its witnesses but would require only that the state prove each of the essential elements of the crime. Certainly, if an accused has the right to plead guilty and thus relieve the state from presenting any proof of his guilt, he can agree that although he will not plead guilty he is willing to accept the verdict of the court based on limited evidence on each of the essential elements of the crime, and that he will not contest such evidence. No presumption of guilt was created by such agreement. The state was required to prove all the essential elements of the offense. The court, from this evidence, then determined the guilt of the accused. That no presumption arose or was in the mind of the court is clearly exemplified by the fact that the court found petitioner not guilty on two of the counts with which he was charged. It is apparent from the record that the court, in spite of its own statement that petitioner in effect admitted his guilt, felt that the burden was on the state to prove a prima facie case that petitioner was guilty.

The fact that such prima facie...

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14 cases
  • Bean v. State, No. 5788
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • 3 Febrero 1970
    ...during trial are as binding and enforceable thereafter as are stipulations made by parties in civil actions. Brookhart v. Haskins, 2 Ohio St.2d 36, 205 N.E.2d 911 (1965). In Scott v. Justice's Court of Tahoe Township, 84 Nev. 9, 435 P.2d 747 (1968), the statute there required that an amende......
  • Com. v. Watkins
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • 29 Marzo 1976
    ...27 (Pa.C.P.1898). Furthermore, numerous other jurisdictions permit amendments to correct aliases. See, e.g., Brookhart v. Haskins, 2 Ohio St.2d 36, 205 N.E.2d 911 (1965), rev'd on other grounds Sub nom. Brookhart v. Janis, 384 U.S. 1, 86 S.Ct. 1245, 16 L.Ed.2d 314 (1966); Kellum v. State, 2......
  • Commonwealth v. Watkins
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • 29 Marzo 1976
    ...27 (Pa.C.P.1898). Furthermore, numerous other jurisdictions permit amendments to correct aliases. See, e.g., Brookhart v. Haskins, 2 Ohio St.2d 36, 205 N.E.2d 911 (1965), rev'd on other grounds Sub nom. Brookhart v. Janis, 384 U.S. 1, 86 S.Ct. 1245, 16 L.Ed.2d 314 (1966); Kellum v. State, 2......
  • State v. Mehozonek
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • 5 Agosto 1983
    ...O.O.3d 104]. However, the trial court is vested with discretion to accept or reject a no contest plea. Cf. Brookhart v. Haskins (1965), 2 Ohio St.2d 36, 205 N.E.2d 911 [31 O.O.2d 20]; see, also, Annotation, Plea of Nolo Contendere [456 N.E.2d 1356] or Non Vult Contendere, 89 A.L.R.2d 540, 5......
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