State v. Griffin, WD-20-081

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtMAYLE, J.
PartiesState of Ohio Appellee v. James Griffin Appellant
Decision Date10 September 2021
Docket NumberWD-20-081


State of Ohio Appellee

James Griffin Appellant

No. WD-20-081

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Wood

September 10, 2021

Trial Court No. 2019CR0428

Paul A. Dobson, Wood County Prosecuting Attorney, and David T. Harold, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

Autumn D. Adams, for appellant.



{¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, James Griffin, appeals the October 26, 2020 judgment of the Wood County Court of Common Pleas, convicting him of abduction, felonious assault, obstructing official business, and attempted rape, and sentencing him to an aggregate term of 17 years in prison, five years' post-release control, the costs of prosecution, and the cost of obtaining a presentence evaluation. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court judgment.

I. Background

{¶ 2} James Griffin was charged in a 12-count indictment with the following crimes: (1) two counts of rape, violations of R.C. 2907.02(A)(2) and (B), first-degree felonies (Counts 1 and 11); (2) three counts of felonious assault, violations of R.C. 2903.11(A)(1) and (D)(1)(a), second-degree felonies (Counts 2, 7, and 12); (3) two counts of abduction, violations of R.C. 2905.02(A)(2) and (C), third-degree felonies (Counts 3 and 8); (4) two counts of disrupting public services, violations of R.C. 2909.01(A)(1) and (C), fourth-degree felonies (Counts 4 and 9); (5) two counts of criminal damaging or endangering, violations of R.C. 2909.06(A)(1) and (B), second-degree misdemeanors (Counts 5 and 6); and (6) obstructing official business, a violation of R.C. 2921.31(A) and (B), a second-degree misdemeanor (Count 10). Counts 1 to 6 arose from the November 29, 2017 attack of Victim No. 1; Counts 7 to 10 arose from the January 20, 2019 attack of Victim No. 2; Counts 11 and 12 arose from the March 2, 2019 attack of Victim No. 3.

{¶ 3} On September 11, 2020, Griffin entered a plea of guilty to Count 3, abduction; Count 7, felonious assault; Count 10, obstructing official business; and amended Count 11, attempted rape, a violation of R.C. 2923.02 and 2907.02(A)(2) and (B), a second-degree felony. The trial court made a finding of guilty, dismissed the remaining counts, ordered a presentence investigation, and continued the matter for sentencing.

{¶ 4} Sentencing took place on October 23, 2020. Griffin was classified a Tier III sexual offender. The court imposed a term of imprisonment of 36 months on Count 3, seven years on Count 7, 90 days on Count 10, and seven years on Count 11. It ordered Griffin to serve the sentences imposed on Counts 3, 7, and 11 consecutively to one another; it ordered him to serve the sentence imposed on Count 10 concurrently with the sentences imposed on Counts 3, 7, and 11. The court imposed a mandatory term of five years' postrelease control. It also ordered Griffin to pay the costs of prosecution and "assessed as costs" fees from Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center for a presentence evaluation; those fees totaled $1, 021.

{¶ 5} Griffin appealed. He assigns the following errors for our review:

Assignment of Error No. 1
Trial Counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by allowing Appellant to enter a plea following five (5) hours of negotiations at the Courthouse
Assignment of Error No. 2
The Trial Court committed plain error by allowing, and then relying upon, non-indicted, alleged behavior in justifying its extremely lengthy prison sentence, and Appellant received ineffective assistance of counsel because Trial Counsel failed to object to the victim's impact statement detailing non-indicted, alleged behavior and failed to object when the Trial Court used those inadmissible statements to justify the extremely long prison sentence. Assignment of Error No. 3
The Trial Court failed to follow the principles and purposes of sentencing. Assignment of Error No. 4:
The Trial Court abused its discretion by assigning Appellant the cost of the presentence evaluation from Court Diagnostics and Treatment Center and "all costs of prosecution" without first inquiring as to his ability to pay.

II. Law and Analysis

{¶ 6} Griffin argues in his first assignment of error that trial counsel was ineffective for allowing him to enter a plea after five hours of negotiations at the courthouse. He argues in his second assignment of error that the trial court erred by relying on unindicted conduct described in the victim impact statements as support in fashioning Griffin's prison sentence, and trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object. In his third assignment of error, Griffin argues that the trial court failed to follow the purposes and principles of sentencing in imposing Griffin's sentence. And in his fourth assignment of error, he argues that the trial court erred in imposing the costs of prosecution and the cost of obtaining a presentence evaluation without first considering whether Griffin is able to pay.

{¶ 7} We address each of these assignments in turn.

A. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

{¶ 8} In his first assignment of error, Griffin argues that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by allowing him to enter a plea after participating in five hours of plea negotiations. He claims that he arrived at the courthouse prepared only for a pretrial, but was "rushed into a plea, after several hours of sitting at the Courthouse while the lawyers talked around him." Griffin maintains that it is clear from the record that he did not have a "thorough understanding of what was to occur during the plea hearing," as evidenced by the questions he asked the trial court and the fact that he and his attorney engaged in off-the-record discussions during the plea colloquy. He requests that his conviction be vacated and the matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

{¶ 9} The state responds that Griffin stated during the plea colloquy that he understood the strictures of the guilty plea and was satisfied with counsel's representation. It explains that plea negotiations lasted over a year, Griffin ultimately entered a plea to only four of 12 counts including no first-degree felonies, and his plea substantially reduced the length of his potential prison sentence.

{¶ 10} In order to prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, an appellant must show that counsel's conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial court cannot be relied on as having produced a just result. State v. Shuttlesworth, 104 Ohio App.3d 281, 287, 661 N.E.2d 817 (7th Dist.1995). To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, an appellant must show "(1) deficient performance of counsel, i.e., performance falling below an objective standard of reasonable representation, and (2) prejudice, i.e., a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the proceeding's result would have been different." State v. Hale, 119 Ohio St.3d 118, 2008-Ohio-3426, 892 N.E.2d 864, ¶ 204, citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). "A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." State v. Sanders, 94 Ohio St.3d 150, 151, 761 N.E.2d 18 (2002).

{¶ 11} "Because a no-contest or guilty plea involves a waiver of constitutional rights, a defendant's decision to enter a plea must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary." (Citations omitted.) State v. Dangler, 162 Ohio St.3d 1, 2020-Ohio-2765, 164 N.E.3d 286, ¶ 10. "[T]he issue of whether a defendant's plea has been entered knowingly and voluntarily is a threshold inquiry into the constitutional viability of counsel's assistance in a defendant's guilty plea." State v. Kiss, 6th Dist. Lucas No. L-08-1379, 2010-Ohio-940, ¶ 10.

{¶ 12} Crim.R. 11(C) sets forth the procedure that a trial court must follow before accepting a plea of guilty to a felony charge. State v. Brinkman, Slip Opinion No. 2021-Ohio-2473, ¶ 11. It requires the court to explain-and ensure that the defendant understands-the nature of the charges, the maximum penalties involved, the effect of his plea, and the constitutional rights he is waiving by entering a plea. Crim.R. 11(C).

{¶ 13} Griffin does not argue that the trial court failed to make any of the required advisements under Crim.R. 11(C). Indeed, all these things were explained to Griffin at the plea hearing, and he acknowledged his understanding. Rather, he complains that he entered his plea after prolonged negotiations, was rushed into a plea, and still had questions even after the lengthy negotiations.

{¶ 14} The fact that questions arise during a plea colloquy does not mean that the defendant was not adequately counseled before entering his plea....

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