Medina County Courthouse

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ohio Supreme Court Decision on Criminal Discovery

The Ohio Supreme Court released a decision on March 21, 2013, that deals with the issue of what sanctions should be used by a trial court if the State doesn't comply with the discovery rules. The decision, State v. Darmond, Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-966, rose out of the decision of a trial court in Cuyahoga County. 

During the trial it became obvious that the State had failed to disclose "some evidence related to the case." The Supreme Court opinion, by Justice William O'Neill, states that the discovery violation was unintentional. The trial court, upon motion by the defense, granted a mistrial and the Eighth Appellate District affirmed. 

The Ohio Supreme Court reversed. The opinion syllabus states the following:

The holding in Lakewood v. Papadelis, 32 Ohio St.3d 1, 511 N.E.2d 1138 (1987), paragraph two of the syllabus, that “[a] trial court must inquire into 
circumstances surrounding a discovery rule violation and, when deciding 
whether to impose a sanction, must impose the least severe sanction that is 
consistent with the purpose of the rules of discovery” applies equally to 
discovery violations committed by the state and to discovery violations 
committed by a criminal defendant."

Justice O'Neill's opinion contains a analysis of prior Ohio Supreme Court decisions concerning discovery violations, particularly by the State, and how they have been dealt with by the Court. His opinion then contains a analysis on whether or not the trial judge's granting of the motion to dismiss was an abuse of discretion. The decision concludes that granting the motion to dismiss was an abuse of discretion. 

The following quote appears in P41 of the decision:

"Based upon the above analysis, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion. We emphasize that we do not hold that a discovery violation committed by the state can never result in the dismissal with prejudice of a criminal case. That option remains available when a trial court, after considering the factors set forth in Parson and in Lakewood, determines that a lesser sanction would not be consistent with the purposes of the criminal discovery rules."

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