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State of Ohio v. Martin L. Hatton

February 8, 2013



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

Cite as State v. Hatton,


{¶1} This is an appeal from a Pickaway County Common Pleas Court judgment that denied a motion by Martin L. Hatton, defendant below and appellant herein, for leave to file a motion for new trial. Appellant assigns the following error for review:*fn2

[Cite as State v. Hatton, 2013-Ohio-475.]


{¶2} In 1997, appellant was convicted of (1) aggravated burglary in violation of R.C. 2911.11; (2) kidnaping in violation of R.C. 2905.01; (3) felonious assault in violation of R.C. 2903.11; (4) rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02, and (5) theft in violation of R.C. 2913.02. The trial court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively for a cumulative total of thirty-nine years in prison. In 1999, we affirmed the trial court's judgment. See State v. Hatton, 4th Dist. No. 97CA34, 1999WL253450 (Apr. 19, 1999). (Hatton I). Appellant has also come before this court on several other occasions.*fn3

{¶3} Appellant commenced the case sub judice on August 10, 2011 with a motion for leave of court to file a delayed motion for new trial. The basis for appellant's motion is "newly discovered evidence" in letters written by a co-conspirator, Ricky Dunn. As we noted in Hatton I, the victim of the crime, and the person who had the most contact with the offenders during the commission of the crimes, could not identify appellant in a lineup. Furthermore, in overruling appellant's argument in Hatton I that his conviction is against the manifest weight of the evidence, we stated that "Dunn's testimony placed appellant at the scene." Id. In the "newly discovered" letters, however, Dunn exonerates appellant and also relates that a detective "threatened" him and caused him to "make false statements" against appellant.

{¶4} The State filed a memorandum contra and argued, inter alia, that (1) the letters were dated nearly two years before appellant filed his motion, and (2) no affidavit from Dunn exists to show that he is the actual author of the letters. Appellant's reply included Dunn's affidavit that he indeed made "false statements" regarding appellant's involvement. The reply also included an affidavit from Carrie Wood, a staff attorney for the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), who related that (1) Ricky Dunn sent the letters to her organization, (2) she visited Dunn in prison and he confirmed the substance of the information in the letters, and (3) after her organization withdrew from representing appellant, she sent the letters directly to him.*fn4

{¶5} On November 30, 2011, the trial court denied appellant's motion. Although appellant did not receive the Dunn letters until December 2010, the court held that he was, at the least, aware of the letters as early as August 2010. Because appellant waited almost a year later to file his motion for a new trial, the court reasoned, appellant did not make the motion "within a reasonable time after discovering the evidence on which he relies." The court thus denied appellant's motion for leave and this appeal followed.

{¶6} Appellant asserts in his sole assignment of error that the trial court erred by denying him leave to file an untimely motion for new trial. Our analysis begins with a recitation of the standard of review.

{¶7} Decisions on motions for leave to file a motion for new trial are generally left to a trial court's sound discretion, and those decisions will not be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion. State v. Pinkerman, 88 Ohio App.3d 158, 160, 623 N.E.2d 643 (4th Dist. 1993)State v. Clumm, 4th Dist. No. 08CA32, 2010-Ohio-342, at ¶14. Generally, an "abuse of discretion" is more than an error of law or judgment; rather, it implies that a court's attitude is unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable. State v. Herring, 94 Ohio St.3d 246, 255, 762 N.E.2d 940 (2002); State v. Adams, 60 Ohio St.2d 151, 157, 404 N.E.2d 144 (1980). In reviewing for an abuse of discretion, appellate courts must not substitute their judgment for that of the trial court. State ex rel. Duncan v. Chippewa Twp. Trustees, 73 Ohio St.3d 728, 732, 654 N.E.2d 1254 (1995); In re Jane Doe 1, 57 Ohio St.3d 135, 137-138, 566 N.E.2d 1181 (1991).

{¶8} The Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that a motion for new trial may be made on several grounds including, inter alia, "newly discovered evidence." Crim.R. 33(A)(6). The time period for filing the motion is as follows:

"Motions for new trial on account of newly discovered evidence shall be filed within one hundred twenty days after the day upon which the verdict was rendered . . . If it is made to appear by clear and convincing proof that the defendant was unavoidably prevented from the discovery of the evidence upon which he must rely, such motion shall be filed within seven days from an of the court finding he was ...

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