Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga
County Prosecutor BY: Brian R. Gutkoski Assistant Prosecuting
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Marcus R. Sidoti Mary Catherine
O'Neill Corrigan Jordan & Sidoti, L.L.P.
BEFORE: E.A. Gallagher, P.J., Stewart, J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
A. GALLAGHER, PRESIDING JUDGE
Defendant-appellant, the state of Ohio, appeals from the
judgment of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas finding
plaintiff-appellee Shayla Johnson to be a wrongfully
imprisoned individual under R.C. 2743.48(A). For the
following reasons, we reverse and remand.
and Procedural Background
Johnson was convicted of drug trafficking, drug possession
and possessing criminal tools stemming from a November 2,
2011 controlled buy/ bust operation conducted by the vice
unit of the Cleveland Police Department. This court
overturned Johnson's convictions in State v.
Johnson, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 98966, 2013-Ohio-2692,
finding that the state failed to present sufficient evidence
to support the charges against her. Id. . at ¶
On September 25, 2013, Johnson filed a complaint against the
state for wrongful imprisonment seeking to recover the
approximately 11-month period she was incarcerated on the
above charges. The case proceeded to a bench trial. At the
onset of trial, the state stipulated that it was not
contesting elements one, two or three of the five part
definition of a "wrongfully imprisoned individual"
under R.C. 2743.48(A). The record reflects that the state did
contest both the fourth and fifth elements at trial.
The trial court found in favor of Johnson and issued a
judgment entry explaining its decision. It found that the
state had stipulated that Johnson satisfied the fourth
element for wrongful imprisonment, R.C. 2743.48(A)(4), in
addition to the first three elements. The trial court then
made a number of factual findings pertaining to the fifth
element, R.C. 2743.48(A)(5), and found in favor of Johnson on
that element. It concluded that Johnson had met her burden in
demonstrating that she was a wrongfully imprisoned person
under the statute.
In its first assignment of error, the state argues that the
trial court failed to properly rule on the fourth element of
wrongful imprisonment under R.C. 2743.48(A)(4). This error is
plain from the record that reflects that the state stipulated
only to the first three elements of the statute and contested
both R.C. 2743.48(A)(4) and (A)(5) both on summary judgment
and at trial. It is not the province of this court to usurp,
in the first instance, the fact finding role of the trial
court. State v. DeHass, 10 Ohio St.2d 230, 227
N.E.2d 212 (1967), paragraph one of the syllabus ("the
weight to be given the evidence and the credibility of
witnesses are primarily for the trier of facts").
Because it is clear from the record that the trial court
relied upon the incorrect belief that the state had
stipulated to the fourth element and did not engage in the
necessary fact finding with respect to R.C. 2743.48(A)(4), we
reverse and remand for proper consideration of that element.
In light of our conclusion that the trial court has yet to
fulfill its factfinding duty with respect to all elements of
R.C. 2743.48, we find that consideration of the state's
second assignment of error, a manifest weight challenge to