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The State of Ohio v. Davis

October 4, 2011

THE STATE OF OHIO, APPELLEE,
v.
DAVIS, APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Licking County, No. 09-CA-00019, 2009-Ohio-5175.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS OF THE COURT Pursuant to Sections 2(B)(2)(c) and 3(B)(2), Article IV of the Ohio Constitution, a court of appeals has jurisdiction, in a case in which a death penalty has been imposed, to consider the appeal of a trial court's denial of a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. A trial court has jurisdiction to decide a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence in a case in which the imposition of the death penalty has been affirmed on appeal.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lanzinger, J.

[Until this opinion appears in the Ohio Official Reports advance sheets, it may be cited as State v. Davis, Slip Opinion No. 2011-Ohio-5028.]

NOTICE

This slip opinion is subject to formal revision before it is published in an advance sheet of the Ohio Official Reports. Readers are requested to promptly notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 South Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, of any typographical or other formal errors in the opinion, in order that corrections may be made before the opinion is published.

SLIP OPINION NO. 2011-OHIO-5028

[Until this opinion appears in the Ohio Official Reports advance sheets, it may be cited as State v. Davis, Slip Opinion No. 2011-Ohio-5028.] Criminal law -- Death penalty -- Jurisdiction -- Motion for a new trial -- Pursuant to Sections 2(B)(2)(c) and 3(B)(2), Article IV of the Ohio

Constitution, a court of appeals has jurisdiction, in a case in which a death penalty has been imposed, to consider the appeal of a trial court's denial of a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence -- A trial court has jurisdiction to decide a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence in a case in which the imposition of the death penalty has been affirmed on appeal.

Submitted June 8, 2011 --

{¶1} This appeal by defendant-appellant, Roland Davis, involves a capital case in which we are asked to determine two jurisdictional issues: 1) whether a court of appeals has jurisdiction to consider an appeal of a trial court's order denying a motion for a new trial in a death-penalty case and 2) whether a trial court has jurisdiction to consider a motion for a new trial*fn1 based on newly discovered evidence in light of State ex rel. Special Prosecutors v. Judges, Court of Common Pleas (1978), 55 Ohio St.2d 94, 9 O.O.3d 88, 378 N.E.2d 162. We hold that the trial court would have had jurisdiction over Davis's motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence and that the appellate court had jurisdiction to entertain the appeal of the denial of the motion for a new trial. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court, and we remand this case to the court of appeals.

I. Factual Background

{¶2} A jury convicted Roland Davis of aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and aggravated robbery in 2005 in connection with the murder of 86-year-old Elizabeth Sheeler in her Newark, Ohio apartment, despite Davis's contention that the perpetrator was his brother. Davis was sentenced to death, and this court affirmed his convictions and death sentence. State v. Davis, 116 Ohio St.3d 404, 2008-Ohio-2, 880 N.E.2d 31.

{¶3} On January 14, 2008, the trial court dismissed Davis's petition for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. 5th Dist. No. 2008-CA-16, 2008-Ohio-6841.

We declined jurisdiction over his appeal. 122 Ohio St.3d 1409, 2008-Ohio-2751, 907 N.E.2d 1193.

{¶4} On October 31, 2008, Davis filed a motion for leave to file a motion for a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence. Davis alleged that he was unavoidably prevented from discovering and producing the evidence at trial or within 120 days of the verdict, as set forth in Crim.R. 33(B).

{¶5} The newly discovered evidence was the affidavit of a DNA expert, Dr. Laurence Mueller, a professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of California, Irvine. Mueller stated that he had reviewed the state's DNA reports and tests, the testimony of the state's DNA experts, and other DNA evidence in the Davis case. In his affidavit, Mueller concluded "with a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that the DNA evidence recited in these reports and the testimony presented" at trial was questionable for four reasons: (1) the state's DNA experts failed to account for the database "hit"*fn2 in the statistical analysis of the DNA test results, (2) there is no mention of laboratory error as a source of uncertainty in DNA profiling, (3) Meghan Clement, one of the state's DNA experts, incorrectly testified that it was impossible for nonidentical twins to have the same DNA, and (4) the state's experts overstated the value of the DNA evidence found on the bed sheets in the victim's bedroom.

{ΒΆ6} In his motion for a new trial, Davis argued that Mueller's affidavit undermined the state's DNA evidence, which was essential to its case against him. Davis argued that the affidavit demonstrated that trial counsel were ineffective by failing to mount an effective challenge to the state's DNA evidence. Davis also asserted ...


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