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State v. Hamilton

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Hocking

March 31, 2017

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES E. HAMILTON, JR. #A488-127, Defendant-Appellant.

          James E. Hamilton, Jr., Chillicothe, Ohio, pro se appellant.

          Colleen S. Williams, Assistant Hocking County Prosecutor, Logan, Ohio, for appellee.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          William H. Harsha, Judge

         {¶1} James E. Hamilton, Jr. appeals from a judgment denying his postconviction motion to correct his sentence. Hamilton filed the motion after he had previously appealed his conviction upon his guilty plea. He asserts that the trial court erred and abused its discretion by denying his motion without an evidentiary hearing, and by incorrectly ruling that the sentence was not contrary to law and that his claims are barred by res judicata.

         {¶2} We reject Hamilton's assertion because res judicata barred his nonconstitutional claims, i.e. that the trial court erred by failing to make the required findings to impose the mandatory prison term, and by failing to advise him of his right to appeal his sentence. And insofar as Hamilton's motion raised constitutional issues, it should have been considered to be a time-barred petition for postconviction relief that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to address. Consequently, we overrule his assignment of error and affirm the judgment of the trial court, as modified, to reflect the dismissal of his constitutional claims.

         I. FACTS

         {¶3} In February 2005, after Hamilton pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated murder in violation of R.C. 2903.01(A), the trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment with parole eligibility after serving twenty years.

         {¶4} In his direct appeal Hamilton claimed that he was deprived of his constitutional right to due process when the trial court accepted his unknowing, unintelligent, and involuntary guilty plea and that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to the trial court's misstatements. We rejected Hamilton's arguments because the record showed that the trial court repeatedly and accurately advised Hamilton that his aggravated murder conviction carried a life sentence with parole eligibility after twenty years. We found that his trial counsel's failure to object to the trial court's misstatement about post-release control was not prejudicial. Hamilton had failed to show that he would not have pled guilty if counsel had objected to the court's misstatements, thus allowing the court to then correctly inform him that he would be subject to parole instead of post-release control. We affirmed the trial court's judgment. State v. Hamilton, 4th Dist. Hocking No. 05CA4, 2005-Ohio-5450, ¶ 13, 22-23.

         {¶5} In 2010, Hamilton filed an unsuccessful pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea and a motion for a new trial.

         {¶6} His current appeal is based upon a 2016, pro se "verified motion to correct sentence." That motion claimed that his sentence was contrary to law and the errors and defects at the sentencing hearing and in the sentencing entry deprived him of due process and a fair proceeding. He argued that his contentions were not barred by waiver or res judicata. He contended that his sentence "includes purported mandatory and more than the minimum sentence" but "none of the required language to impose mandatory or more than the minimum were cited" in the entry or at the hearing. He argued that R.C. 2929.13(F) required the court to issue findings and justifications for its sentence. Next, he argued that his case was a capital case that required a three-judge panel to determine his guilt and the appropriate sentence. Hamilton also argued that the sentencing entry did not inform him of his right to appeal his sentence if it were contrary to law as provided in R.C. 2953.08(B)(2). Hamilton requested the trial court issue a corrected amended sentencing entry that complies with felony sentencing statutes and that would entitle him to judicial release, earned credit, and eligibility for the "DRC Sponsored 80% Early Release Program."

         {¶7} The trial court denied the motion.

         II. ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         {¶8} Hamilton assigns the following error for our review:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION; WHEN IT OVERRULED AND DENIED DEFENDANTS PROPERLY FILED VERIFIED MOTION TO CORRECT SENTENCE ALLEGING SENTENCING ERRORS, WITHOUT ANY REAL REVIEW OR HOLDING A HEARING, AFTER SCHEDULING ONE; BY INCORRECTLY RULING THAT THE SENTENCE IMPOSED WAS NOT CONTRARY TO LAW AND FURTHER INCORPORATING THE STATE'S FLAWED ARGUMENT THAT THESE ERRORS CAN ...

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