State v. Szefcyk, 95-1134

Citation77 Ohio St.3d 93,671 N.E.2d 233
Decision Date13 November 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95-1134,95-1134
PartiesThe STATE of Ohio, Appellant, v. SZEFCYK, Appellee.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Under the doctrine of res judicata, a final judgment of conviction bars a convicted defendant who was represented by counsel from raising and litigating in any proceeding, except an appeal from that judgment, any defense or any claimed lack of due process that was raised or could have been raised by the defendant at the trial, which resulted in that judgment of conviction, or on an appeal from that judgment. (State v. Perry [1967], 10 Ohio St.2d 175, 39 O.O.2d 189, 226 N.E.2d 104, paragraph nine of the syllabus, approved and followed; State v. Westfall [1995], 71 Ohio St.3d 565, 645 N.E.2d 730, disapproved.)

On March 15, 1991, appellee, Walter F. Szefcyk, while operating a truck, struck and killed Philip Lichtcsien, who was riding a bicycle. A jury convicted Szefcyk of involuntary manslaughter in violation of R.C. 2903.04(B), an aggravated third-degree felony; vehicular homicide, in violation of R.C. 2903.07, a first-degree misdemeanor; leaving the scene of an accident, in violation of R.C. 4549.02, a first-degree misdemeanor; reckless operation, in violation of R.C. 4511.20, a minor misdemeanor; failure to drive within assured clear distance, in violation of R.C. 4511.21(A), a minor misdemeanor; and improper passing, in violation of R.C. 4511.27(A), a minor misdemeanor. The involuntary manslaughter conviction was predicated upon the minor misdemeanor traffic violations. Szefcyk was sentenced to four to ten years' imprisonment.

Appellee timely appealed his involuntary manslaughter conviction, alleging, inter alia, that a minor misdemeanor cannot serve as the underlying predicate offense to support a conviction under R.C. 2903.04(B). The Ninth District Court of Appeals affirmed appellee's conviction. State v. Szefcyk (Jan. 6, 1993), Lorain App. No. 92CA005340, unreported, 1993 WL 6658.

Appellee appealed to this court and jurisdiction was denied. State v. Szefcyk (1993), 66 Ohio St.3d 1489, 612 N.E.2d 1245.

Subsequently, appellee filed a petition for postconviction relief in the trial court, which was denied. Appellee appealed the denial of the postconviction relief petition to the Ninth District Court of Appeals, which reversed and set aside the involuntary manslaughter conviction (State v. Szefcyk [1995], 104 Ohio App.3d 118, 661 N.E.2d 233), relying on this court's decisions in State v. Collins (1993), 67 Ohio St.3d 115, 616 N.E.2d 224, and State v. Westfall (1995), 71 Ohio St.3d 565, 645 N.E.2d 730.

The cause is now before the court upon the allowance of a discretionary appeal.

Gregory A. White, Lorain County Prosecuting Attorney, and Jonathan E. Rosenbaum, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for appellant.

Bradley & Giardini Co., L.P.A., and Jack W. Bradley, Lorain, for appellee.

ALICE ROBIE RESNICK, Justice.

This case provides us with an opportunity to revisit our recent summary decision in State v. Westfall (1995), 71 Ohio St.3d 565, 645 N.E.2d 730.

The facts of that case, as set forth in the court of appeals' opinion, indicate that Westfall pled no contest and was found guilty of two counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of negligent assault, one count of driving under a suspended license, and one count of failure to operate his vehicle within marked lanes. The latter offense, a minor misdemeanor, was the predicate offense to the involuntary manslaughter counts. Westfall timely appealed his conviction, contending that a conviction for involuntary manslaughter pursuant to R.C. 2903.04(B) cannot be predicated upon a minor misdemeanor. The Ninth District Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. State v. Westfall (July 31, 1991), Summit App. No. 14930, unreported, 1991 WL 149573. Westfall appealed that decision to this court and jurisdiction was denied. State v. Westfall (1991), 62 Ohio St.3d 1475, 581 N.E.2d 1097.

Subsequent to our decision denying jurisdiction in Westfall, the Court of Appeals for Miami County certified the identical issue for review by this court, that is, whether pursuant to R.C. 2903.04(B) a minor misdemeanor can be the predicate offense to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. This court, in affirming the court of appeals, held at the syllabus:

"A minor misdemeanor may not serve as the underlying predicate offense for purposes of the involuntary manslaughter statute, R.C. 2903.04(B)." State v. Collins (1993), 67 Ohio St.3d 115, 616 N.E.2d 224. 1

After Collins was announced, Westfall filed a petition for postconviction relief, which was granted by the trial court. The state appealed that decision to the court of appeals. The Ninth District Court of Appeals, in State v. Westfall (Sept. 28, 1994), Summit App. No. 16663, unreported, 1994 WL 527883, reversed the trial court, relying upon State v. Perry (1967), 10 Ohio St.2d 175, 39 O.O.2d 189, 226 N.E.2d 104, paragraph nine of the syllabus:

"Under the doctrine of res judicata, a final judgment of conviction bars a convicted defendant who was represented by counsel from raising and litigating in any proceeding except an appeal from that judgment, any defense or any claimed lack of due process that was raised or could have been raised by the defendant at the trial, which resulted in that judgment of conviction, or on an appeal from that judgment." (Emphasis sic.)

This court, in State v. Westfall (1995), 71 Ohio St.3d 565, 645 N.E.2d 730, allowed the discretionary appeal, summarily reversed the judgment of the court of appeals, and reinstated the judgment of the trial court on authority of State v. Collins.

In the case sub judice, the appellee filed a direct appeal, urging reversal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction, arguing that ...

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