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Doss v. State

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

April 6, 2017

IRAN DOSS PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF OHIO DEFENDANT-APPELLEE

         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-08-665993

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Paul A. Mancino, Jr. Mancino, Mancino & Mancino

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Brian R. Gutkoski Assistant Prosecuting Attorney The Justice Center,

          BEFORE: E.T. Gallagher, J., McCormack, P.J., and S. Gallagher, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          EILEEN T. GALLAGHER, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Iran Doss ("Doss"), appeals from the judgment of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, in which that court, following a bench trial, entered judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, state of Ohio (the "state"), on Doss's claim for statutory wrongful imprisonment. Doss raises the following assignments of error for our review:

1. Plaintiff was denied due process of law as the judgment of the court is contrary to law and the court's prior ruling in the same case.
2. Plaintiff was denied due process of law as the ruling by the court is not only against the manifest weight of the evidence but is also contrary to law.

         {¶2} After careful review of the record and relevant case law, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. Procedural History

         {¶3} In April 2005, Doss was named in a three-count indictment, charging him with two counts of rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02 and a single count of kidnapping in violation of R.C. 2905.01, with a sexual motivation specification.

         {¶4} Following a jury trial, Doss was convicted of rape, as charged in Count 2 of the indictment, and the single count of kidnapping. At sentencing, the trial court imposed concurrent four-year sentences on each count. Doss was also found to be a sexually oriented offender subject to registration.

         {¶5} On appeal, Doss challenged his rape and kidnapping convictions on several grounds, including a challenge to the evidence supporting his convictions. Doss argued that the state failed to present sufficient evidence that the victim, J.P., was substantially impaired due to a mental or physical condition and that Doss knew of that substantial impairment. This court, in a two-to-one decision, concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that J.P.'s capacity to consent was substantially impaired and that Doss knew or had reason to know of the substantial impairment. State v. Doss, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 88443, 2007-Ohio-6483 ("Doss I ").

         {¶6} Upon reconsideration, a split panel vacated both the kidnapping and the rape convictions. State v. Doss, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 88443, 2008-Ohio-449 ("Doss II "). The Doss II majority held that the state failed to present sufficient evidence showing that Doss knew or had reason to know that J.P.'s ability to consent was substantially impaired. Id. at ¶ 21-23. This court vacated the convictions and ordered Doss discharged from prison. The state appealed the vacation of the rape conviction, but the Ohio Supreme Court declined review. State v. Doss, 118 Ohio St.3d 1507, 2008-Ohio-3369, 889 N.E.2d 1025.

         {¶7} After his release, Doss filed an action for declaratory judgment pursuant to R.C. 2743.48, seeking compensation from the state for wrongful imprisonment. In July 2010, Doss filed a motion for summary judgment, citing our decision in Doss II The motion, which contained no attachments or exhibits, relied exclusively on Doss II. The state opposed the motion for summary judgment, offering the transcripts from the criminal trial to show that there were issues of fact and arguing that Doss had failed to establish his innocence by a preponderance of the evidence.

         {¶8} In January 2011, the trial court granted Doss's motion for summary judgment, stating, in pertinent part:

The court of appeals' decision to reverse and vacate plaintiff Doss's conviction and order his immediate release can only be interpreted to mean that either plaintiff Doss was innocent of the charges upon which he was convicted, or that no crime was committed by plaintiff Doss, or both.

         {¶9} This court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in a two-to-one decision. Doss v. State, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 96452, 2011-Ohio-6429 ("Doss III"). The majority reiterated that its review of the record in Doss II had revealed that Doss's statement was the only evidence of J.P.'s mental condition and that the state had presented no evidence that Doss knew, or should have known, that J.P.'s ability to resist or consent was substantially impaired because of voluntary intoxication. Id. at ¶ 15. Accordingly, this court found no genuine issue of fact and no error in the trial court's entry of summary judgment. Id. . at ¶ 17.

         {¶10} The dissenting judge stated:

Our holding in [Doss II] does not mean that Doss is innocent-merely that, based upon the evidence the state presented, Doss's guilt could not be established beyond a reasonable doubt. The same cannot automatically be said of whether Doss can show by a preponderance of the evidence that he did not know or reasonably should not have known of the victim's incapacity.

Id. at ¶ 21 (Celebrezze, J., dissenting).

         {¶11} In Doss v. State, 135 Ohio St.3d 211, 2012-Ohio-5678, 985 N.E.2d 1229 ("Doss IV"), the Ohio Supreme Court reversed this court's judgment in Doss III, stating, in pertinent part:

         The record shows that Doss filed his motion for summary judgment relying solely on the Eighth District's decision in Doss II And the trial court granted summary judgment on that basis alone. Specifically, the trial court stated:

The court of appeals' decision to reverse and vacate plaintiff Doss's conviction and order his immediate release can only be interpreted to mean that either plaintiff Doss was innocent of the charges upon which he was convicted, or that no crime was committed by plaintiff Doss, or both.

(Emphasis sic.)

         This conclusion was incorrect. The trial court relied solely on the court of appeals' reversal and vacation of the conviction to hold that Doss was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. It did not require a hearing or additional evidence. It simply cited the court of appeals' holding that the state had not offered sufficient evidence to prove Doss's convictions. And in affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment, the Eighth District correctly acknowledged Walden's [47 Ohio St.3d 547, N.E.2d 962 (1989)] rule that an acquittal does not necessarily establish actual innocence, but then applied the rule incorrectly. Despite the jury's verdict of guilt and without any evidence from Doss, the majority held that the record showed insufficient evidence of the alleged victim's substantial impairment. Thus, the judgment of the trial court that found Doss to be eligible for compensation and the appellate court's judgment affirming that finding were not based upon an affirmative showing of actual innocence. They were based on a dearth of evidence of guilt. Both courts relieved Doss of his statutory obligation to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he did not commit the charged offense, including all lesser included offenses, an obligation that must be fulfilled before he is allowed to claim the status of one who was "wrongfully imprisoned."

To show actual innocence under the wrongful-imprisonment statute, Doss must prove that "the charged offense, including all lesser-included offenses, either was not committed by [him] or was not committed by any person." R.C. 2743.48(A)(5). This court has emphasized that this standard is not satisfied by an acquittal or a finding of legal insufficiency of the evidence. Walden, 47 Ohio St.3d at 52, 547 N.E.2d 962. The General Assembly requires a showing of innocence to be made affirmatively and adjudicated de novo before a claimant can be found to be eligible for compensation in a wrongful-imprisonment action.
* * *
Not every person who is released from prison because of a successful appeal is entitled to compensation. The legislature set forth a procedure for claimants like Doss to follow in R.C. 2743.48, so that the common pleas court could actively separate demonstrably innocent persons who have been wrongfully imprisoned from persons who have merely avoided criminal liability. We hold that one who claims to be a "wrongfully imprisoned individual" under R.C. 2743.48 must prove all of the factors in R.C. 2743.48(A) by a preponderance of the evidence before seeking compensation from the state for wrongful imprisonment. We also hold that a trial court adjudicating proof of innocence pursuant to R.C. 2743.48(A)(5) may not find that a claimant has been wrongfully imprisoned based solely on an appellate court judgment vacating a felony conviction due to ...

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