State v. Henderson

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Citation161 Ohio St.3d 285,2020 Ohio 4784,162 N.E.3d 776
Docket NumberNo. 2019-0182,2019-0182
Parties The STATE of Ohio, Appellee, v. HENDERSON, Appellant.
Decision Date07 October 2020

161 Ohio St.3d 285
162 N.E.3d 776
2020 Ohio 4784

The STATE of Ohio, Appellee,
v.
HENDERSON, Appellant.

No. 2019-0182

Supreme Court of Ohio.

Submitted February 12, 2020
Decided October 7, 2020


Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, and Gregory Ochocki, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellee.

Mark A. Stanton, Cuyahoga County Public Defender, and John T. Martin, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

French, J.

162 N.E.3d 779
161 Ohio St.3d 285

{¶ 1} In this case, we consider whether to declare a sentence void and allow the state to correct a sentencing error through a motion for resentencing. To answer that question, we consider the last three decades of our void-sentence analysis, reject that analysis, and return to our traditional understanding of the distinction between void and voidable sentences. Our decision today takes us the next and final step toward a return to that traditional understanding after our recent decision in State v. Harper , 160 Ohio St.3d 480, 2020-Ohio-2913, 159 N.E.3d 248, in which we held that "[w]hen a case is within a court's subject-matter jurisdiction and the accused is properly before the court, any error in the exercise of that jurisdiction in imposing postrelease control renders the court's judgment voidable," id. at ¶ 4. Here, we conclude that sentences based on an error, including sentences in which a trial court fails to impose a statutorily mandated term, are voidable if the court imposing the sentence has jurisdiction over the case and the defendant. Applying that reasoning, we conclude easily that appellant Rogers T. Henderson's sentence was voidable. Even though the trial court should have sentenced Henderson to an indefinite sentence of 15 years to life for his offense, he was sentenced to a definite sentence. Eighteen years later, the state tried to correct that sentence by filing a motion for resentencing, which the trial court granted and the court of appeals affirmed. Because the state cannot challenge Henderson's voidable sentence through a postconviction motion for resentencing, we reverse the decision of the Eighth District Court of Appeals and

161 Ohio St.3d 286

remand this matter to the trial court to vacate the sentencing entry it issued on September 20, 2017.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

{¶ 2} Henderson was arrested on September 22, 1999, for his involvement in the death of Lester Bryant. Henderson was indicted on one count of aggravated murder, in violation of R.C. 2903.01. The charge included two firearm specifications, pursuant to R.C. 2941.141 and 2941.145. On November 30, 1999, Henderson pleaded guilty to one count of murder, in violation of R.C. 2903.02(A), with one three-year firearm specification, R.C. 2941.145. At the time of Henderson's plea and sentencing, a murder conviction carried an indefinite sentence of 15 years to life. The firearm specification added a three-year mandatory consecutive sentence. During the plea, the trial court told Henderson that the charge to which he was pleading guilty carried a sentence of "15 years to life." Henderson said he understood that sentence. During the sentencing portion of the hearing, though, the trial court stated the following, in totality, regarding the sentence it was imposing:

Boy, Mr. Henderson, you're really pathetic. 15 years on the underlying offense, three-year firearm specification, to be served prior to and consecutive with the 15 years. Mr. Henderson, shame on you.

The trial court did not mention the life-tail portion1 of the sentence after it accepted

162 N.E.3d 780

Henderson's plea. The state did not object to or otherwise challenge the trial court's omission of the life-tail portion of the sentence. The sentencing entry also failed to include the life-tail portion of the sentence, stating only: "The court imposes a prison term * * * of 3 years to run prior to and consecutive with base charge of 15 years." Neither party filed a direct appeal.

{¶ 3} On March 31, 2009, Henderson filed a motion for sentencing in which he argued that his sentence was unconstitutional and void because the judge imposed a term of postrelease control. In support of his motion, Henderson cited this court's cases on void sentences and the trial court's statement during

161 Ohio St.3d 287

Henderson's plea and sentencing hearing that "[a]lthough the courts of appeals in the State of Ohio have determined that the following is unconstitutional, sir, I will advise you, until the Supreme Court of Ohio speaks, that you may be placed on post-release control at the expiration of a prison term." He moved to vacate his sentence and requested a new sentencing hearing. The state opposed the motion, arguing that Henderson's sentence did not include a term of postrelease control because the sentencing entry itself did not impose postrelease control on Henderson. The state represented that Henderson was sentenced to precisely "15 years on the underlying offense." It argued that Henderson "was properly sentenced and he is not entitled to a resentencing." The trial court denied Henderson's motion.

{¶ 4} On August 20, 2009, Henderson filed another motion for sentencing. In this motion, Henderson argued that his sentence was void because the trial court had sentenced him to "15-years flat" when the statute required that he receive "an indefinite term of fifteen years to life." He requested that the trial court resentence him to correct the void sentence. The state did not respond to that motion. The trial court denied the motion in an entry, stating only: "[M]otion for sentencing filed 8/20/09 is denied."

{¶ 5} On June 28, 2010, Henderson filed a motion to declare his original 15-year sentence final under the doctrine of collateral estoppel. The state opposed the motion, representing that the original sentencing journal entry became final and appealable when it was filed in 1999, negating any need to finalize it again. It argued that Henderson was just trying to restart the appeal process after failing to avail himself of a direct appeal. The court did not rule on that motion.

{¶ 6} In May 2011, the Bureau of Sentence Computation sent a letter to the trial court and the prosecutor informing them that Henderson had been mistakenly sentenced to a definite 15-year term instead of an indefinite term that included a life tail. On June 15, 2011, the state filed a motion to correct the sentence, because the trial court imposed only a 15-year sentence instead of a sentence of 15 years to life. The trial court did not act on the bureau's letter or the state's motion.

{¶ 7} On August 31, 2017, Henderson filed a motion for jail-time credit. He represented that he entered custody on September 24, 1999, and was sent to prison on December 1, 1999, but that he was awarded only 2 days of jail-time credit for this time period. He requested an additional 66 days of jail-time credit, for a total of 68 days. The trial court granted his motion on September 14, 2017, but it awarded him a

162 N.E.3d 781

total of 66 days of jail-time credit. The record does not indicate whether the trial court intentionally or inadvertently reduced Henderson's request from 68 days to 66 days.

161 Ohio St.3d 288

{¶ 8} On September 15, 2017, a few days before Henderson was set to be released from custody, the state filed a motion for resentencing to correct Henderson's sentence. The state argued that Henderson's original sentence was void because the trial court imposed an unlawful definite 15-year sentence. In that motion, the state represented that Henderson was due to be released on September 19, 2017. Henderson argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to resentence him because he had already completed his sentence. According to Henderson, he entered custody on September 22, 1999, and was entitled to 71 total days of jail-time credit. Accounting for five leap-year days that the Bureau of Sentence Computation deducts in computing a sentence, his sentence was complete on September 16, 2017. Henderson argued that his expectation in the finality of his sentence fully matured even before his sentence was complete and that double-jeopardy and due-process considerations prevented the trial court from resentencing him.

{¶ 9} The state filed a supplemental motion on September 20, 2017. In this motion, the state argued that R.C. 5145.01 automatically transforms the unlawful definite sentence the trial court imposed into the indefinite sentence it should have imposed.

{¶ 10} Henderson also filed a motion on September 20, 2017, requesting additional jail-time credit—71 days total. He represented that he entered custody on September 22, 1999, when he was arrested, but the trial court mistakenly used the date he was booked into county jail when it calculated his jail-time credit. He was not booked until two days after he was taken into custody. Furthermore, he argued that he was not imprisoned until December 2, 1999, not December 1, 1999, as he previously believed. Those additional three days...

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