State v. Colon, No. 2006-2139.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtMoyer
Citation118 Ohio St.3d 26,885 N.E.2d 917,2008 Ohio 1624
Decision Date09 April 2008
Docket NumberNo. 2006-2139.,No. 2006-2250.
PartiesThe STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. COLON, Appellant.
885 N.E.2d 917
118 Ohio St.3d 26
2008-Ohio-1624
The STATE of Ohio, Appellee,
v.
COLON, Appellant.
No. 2006-2139.
No. 2006-2250.
Supreme Court of Ohio.
Submitted November 7, 2007.
Decided April 9, 2008.

[885 N.E.2d 919]

William Mason, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jon W. Oebker, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

Robert L. Tobik, Cuyahoga County Public Defender, and Cullen Sweeney, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

Jason A. Macke, urging reversal for amicus curiae, Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

MOYER, C.J.


118 Ohio St.3d 27

{¶ 1} Pursuant to Section 3(B)(4), Article IV of the Ohio Constitution and App.R. 25, the Eighth District Court of Appeals certified its judgment in this case as being in conflict with the judgments of the First District Court of Appeals in State v. Shugars, 165 Ohio App.3d 379, 2006-Ohio-718, 846 N.E.2d 592, and the Third District Court of Appeals in State v. Daniels, Putnam App. No. 12-03-12, 2004-Ohio-2063, 2004 WL 877695, on the following issue: "Where an indictment fails to charge the mens rea element of the crime, and the defendant fails to raise that issue in the trial court, has the defendant waived the defect in the indictment?" The answer to this question is no.

{¶ 2} Defendant-appellant, Vincent Colon, was convicted by a jury of the offense of robbery in violation of R.C. 2911.02(A)(2). Prior to the trial, the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury had returned a single-count indictment against the defendant, charging: "[I]n attempting or committing a theft offense, as defined in Section 2913.01 of the Revised Code, or in fleeing immediately after the attempt or offense upon [the victim, the defendant did] inflict, attempt to inflict, or threaten to inflict physical harm on [the victim]."

{¶ 3} At the defendant's trial, the court instructed the jury on the elements of robbery pursuant to R.C. 2911.02(A)(2) and summarized the elements as (1) "in

885 N.E.2d 920

attempting or committing a theft offense or in fleeing immediately after the attempt or offense," (2) the defendant inflicted, or attempted to "inflict, or threatened to inflict physical harm upon [the victim]." The jury found the defendant guilty.

{¶ 4} On appeal, the defendant argued that his "state constitutional right to a grand jury indictment and state and federal constitutional rights to due process were violated when his indictment omitted an element of the offense." The indictment did not expressly charge the mens rea element of the crime of robbery.

{¶ 5} The court of appeals did not address the defect in the indictment; instead, the court affirmed the defendant's conviction pursuant to Crim.R. 12(C)(2). Crim.R. 12(C)(2) states that defects in an indictment are waived if not raised before trial, except that failure to show jurisdiction in the court or failure to charge an offense may be raised at any time during the pendency of the proceeding. The court of appeals held that because defendant did not raise the issue before his trial, he waived the argument that his indictment was defective.

118 Ohio St.3d 28

{¶ 6} Defendant was convicted of the offense of robbery, pursuant to R.C. 2911.02(A)(2). That statute states:

{¶ 7} "(A) No person, in attempting or committing a theft offense or in fleeing immediately after the attempt or offense, shall do any of the following:

{¶ 8} "* * *

{¶ 9} "(2) Inflict, attempt to inflict, or threaten to inflict physical harm on another."

I

{¶ 10} There is no dispute that the defendant's indictment was defective. The indictment purportedly charged the defendant with robbery in violation of R.C. 2911.02(A)(2), but the indictment omitted a mens rea element for the actus reus element stated in subsection (2): "Inflict, attempt to inflict, or threaten to inflict physical harm on another."

A

{¶ 11} While the robbery statute does not expressly state the degree of culpability required for subsection (2), the mental state of the offender is a part of every criminal offense in Ohio, except those that plainly impose strict liability. See State v. Lozier, 101 Ohio St.3d 161, 2004-Ohio-732, 803 N.E.2d 770, ¶ 18. Under R.C. 2901.21(A)(2), in order to be found guilty of a criminal offense, a person must have "the requisite degree of culpability for each element as to which a culpable mental state is specified by the section defining the offense."

{¶ 12} R.C. 2901.21(B) addresses both strict-liability statutes and those statutes, like the robbery statute (R.C. 2911.02), that do not expressly state a culpable mental state. State v. Lozier, 101 Ohio St.3d 161, 2004-Ohio-732, 803 N.E.2d 770, at ¶ 19. R.C. 2901.21(B) states that "[w]hen the section defining an offense does not specify any degree of culpability, and plainly indicates a purpose to impose strict criminal liability for the conduct described in the section, then culpability is not required for a person to be guilty of the offense. When the section neither specifies culpability nor plainly indicates a purpose to impose strict liability, recklessness is sufficient culpability to commit the offense."

{¶ 13} Thus, "recklessness is the catchall culpable mental state for criminal statutes that fail to mention any degree of culpability, except for strict liability statutes, where the accused's mental state is irrelevant. However, for strict liability to be the mental standard, the statute must plainly indicate a purpose to impose it."

885 N.E.2d 921

State v. Lozier, 101 Ohio St.3d 161, 2004-Ohio-732, 803 N.E.2d 770, at ¶ 21.

{¶ 14} R.C. 2911.02(A)(2) does not specify a particular degree of culpability for the act of "[i]nflict[ing], attempt[ing] to inflict, or threaten[ing] to inflict physical

118 Ohio St.3d 29

harm," nor does the statute plainly indicate that strict liability is the mental standard. As a result, the state was required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant recklessly inflicted, attempted to inflict, or threatened to inflict physical harm.

{¶ 15} In this case, the indictment failed to charge that the physical harm was recklessly inflicted. The state agrees that the omission in the indictment of one of the essential elements of the crime of robbery rendered the defendant's indictment defective.

B

{¶ 16} This court has consistently protected defendants' rights to a proper indictment. As early as 1855, Chief Justice Ranney stated the importance of including all the essential elements in an indictment: "`The nature and cause of the accusation' are not sufficiently stated to enable the accused to know what he might expect to meet upon the trial; and it is neither consistent with general principles nor constitutional safeguards, to allow a man to be thus put to trial upon a criminal charge in the dark." Dillingham v. State (1855), 5 Ohio St. 280, 285.

{¶ 17} Our case law follows the Ohio Constitution, which provides that "no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous, crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a grand jury." Section 10, Article I, Ohio Constitution. "The material and essential facts constituting an offense are found by the presentment of the grand jury; and if one of the vital and material elements identifying and characterizing the crime has been omitted from the indictment such defective indictment is insufficient to charge an offense, and cannot be cured by the court, as such a procedure would not only violate the constitutional rights of the accused, but would allow the court to convict him on an indictment essentially different from that found by the grand jury." Harris v. State (1932), 125 Ohio St. 257, 264, 181 N.E. 104.

{¶ 18} The Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure reflect the principle that an indictment that fails to include all the essential elements of an offense is a defective indictment. Crim.R. 7(B) provides that an indictment must include a statement that "the defendant has committed a public offense specified in the indictment. * * * The statement may be made in ordinary and concise language without technical averments or allegations not essential to be proved. The statement may be in the words of the applicable section of the statute, provided the words of that statute charge an offense, or in words sufficient to give the defendant notice of all the elements of the offense with which the defendant is charged." (Emphasis added.)

118 Ohio St.3d 30
II

{¶ 19} Having concluded that the indictment in this case was defective because it failed to charge an essential element of the offense, we next determine whether an indictment that fails to include the mens rea of the offense charged may be challenged for the first time on appeal. In this case, the defective indictment resulted in structural error, and the court of appeals erred when it held that the error could not be raised for the first time on appeal.

A

{¶ 20} Structural errors are "constitutional defects that `"defy analysis by `harmless error' standards" because

885 N.E.2d 922

they "affect[ ] the framework within which the trial proceeds, rather than simply [being] an error in the trial process itself."'" (Brackets added in Fisher.) State v. Perry, 101 Ohio St.3d 118, 2004-Ohio-297, 802 N.E.2d 643, at ¶ 17, quoting State v. Fisher, 99 Ohio St.3d 127, 2003-Ohio-2761, 789 N.E.2d 222, at ¶ 9, quoting Arizona v. Fulminante (1991), 499 U.S. 279, 309, 310, 111 S.Ct. 1246, 113 L.Ed.2d 302. "Such errors permeate `[t]he entire conduct of the trial from beginning to end' so that the trial cannot `"reliably serve its function as a vehicle for determination of guilt or innocence."'" Id., quoting Arizona at 309-310, 111 S.Ct. 1246, 113 L.Ed.2d 302, quoting Rose v. Clark (1986), 478 U.S. 570, 577-578, 106 S.Ct. 3101, 92 L.Ed.2d 460. "[A] structural error mandates a finding of `per se prejudice.'" (Emphasis sic.) State v. Fisher, 99 Ohio St.3d 127, 2003-Ohio-2761, 789 N.E.2d 222, at ¶ 9.

{¶ 21} "In determining whether an alleged error is `structural,'...

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519 practice notes
  • State v. McMillen, 2009 Ohio 210 (Ohio App. 1/20/2009), No. 2008-CA-00122.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • 20 janvier 2009
    ...that the defendant recklessly inflicted, attempted to inflict, or threatened to inflict physical harm. Colon, 2008-Ohio-1624, ¶ 14, 118 Ohio St.3d 26, 885 N.E.2d Page 6 {¶25} In the case at bar, appellant was indicted for patient endangerment in violation of R.C. 2903.341, which provides: {......
  • Mitchell v. Smith, CASE NO. 2:10-CV-00299
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • 15 juillet 2011
    ...include the default element of recklessness. We disagree.In support of his arguments, appellant relies on the case of State v. Colon, 118 Ohio St.3d 26, 885 N.E.2d 917, 2008-Ohio-1624 (Colon I), wherein the Supreme Court of Ohio held the following at syllabus: "When an indictment fails to c......
  • Kelley v. Brunsman, No. 1:08-CV-00071.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • 9 juin 2009
    ...Petitioner's argument unpersuasive. Petitioner cites State v. Cimpritz, 158 Ohio St. 490, 110 N.E.2d 416 (1953) and State v. Colon, 118 Ohio St.3d 26, 885 N.E.2d 917 (2008) for support. Cimpritz stands for the proposition that the elements for a crime must be gathered wholly from that statu......
  • Savoy v. State , No. 120
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 23 juin 2011
    ...relies for the contrary view on two out-of-state cases, People v. Duncan, 462 Mich. 47, 610 N.W.2d 551 (2000), and State v. Colon, 118 Ohio St.3d 26, 885 N.E.2d 917 (2008). We do not find those cases persuasive. The analysis in Duncan, in our view, is flawed. True, the Michigan Supreme Cour......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
519 cases
  • State v. McMillen, 2009 Ohio 210 (Ohio App. 1/20/2009), No. 2008-CA-00122.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • 20 janvier 2009
    ...that the defendant recklessly inflicted, attempted to inflict, or threatened to inflict physical harm. Colon, 2008-Ohio-1624, ¶ 14, 118 Ohio St.3d 26, 885 N.E.2d Page 6 {¶25} In the case at bar, appellant was indicted for patient endangerment in violation of R.C. 2903.341, which provides: {......
  • Mitchell v. Smith, CASE NO. 2:10-CV-00299
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • 15 juillet 2011
    ...include the default element of recklessness. We disagree.In support of his arguments, appellant relies on the case of State v. Colon, 118 Ohio St.3d 26, 885 N.E.2d 917, 2008-Ohio-1624 (Colon I), wherein the Supreme Court of Ohio held the following at syllabus: "When an indictment fails to c......
  • Kelley v. Brunsman, No. 1:08-CV-00071.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • 9 juin 2009
    ...Petitioner's argument unpersuasive. Petitioner cites State v. Cimpritz, 158 Ohio St. 490, 110 N.E.2d 416 (1953) and State v. Colon, 118 Ohio St.3d 26, 885 N.E.2d 917 (2008) for support. Cimpritz stands for the proposition that the elements for a crime must be gathered wholly from that statu......
  • Savoy v. State , No. 120
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 23 juin 2011
    ...relies for the contrary view on two out-of-state cases, People v. Duncan, 462 Mich. 47, 610 N.W.2d 551 (2000), and State v. Colon, 118 Ohio St.3d 26, 885 N.E.2d 917 (2008). We do not find those cases persuasive. The analysis in Duncan, in our view, is flawed. True, the Michigan Supreme Cour......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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