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State ex rel. Peoples v. Johnson

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 21, 2017

The State ex rel. Peoples, Appellant,
v.
Johnson, Judge, Appellee.

          Submitted May 2, 2017

         Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, No. 15AP-765, 2016-Ohio-5204.

          David A. Peoples, pro se.

          O'DONNELL, J.

         {¶ 1} David A. Peoples appeals from a judgment of the Tenth District Court of Appeals denying a writ of mandamus to compel Judge David L. Johnson to vacate Peoples's aggravated murder conviction and issue a final appealable order disposing of one count of having a weapon while under disability that was charged in the same criminal case.

         {¶ 2} Peoples has been imprisoned for more than 15 years, his aggravated murder conviction and sentence have been upheld on direct appeal, and his collateral attack on the finality of his conviction has been rejected by the Tenth District Court of Appeals and denied review by this court. It is well established that a writ of mandamus is not available when the relator has an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law; here, Peoples's appeal from the denial of his motion to vacate his judgment of conviction was an adequate remedy.

         {¶ 3} Accordingly, his complaint is barred by the doctrine of res judicata, and we affirm the judgment of the court of appeals.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 4} In 2001, the Franklin County Grand Jury indicted Peoples for one count of aggravated murder with firearm and drive-by-shooting specifications and one count of having a weapon while under disability. A jury returned verdicts finding him guilty of aggravated murder and both specifications in July 2002, and Judge Johnson imposed an aggregate 34-year prison sentence. However, there is no indication in the record of any disposition of or sentence for the weapons charge.

         {¶ 5} On direct appeal, Peoples did not question the finality of the judgment with respect to the aggravated murder conviction, and the court of appeals affirmed it. State v. Peoples, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 02AP-945, 2003-Ohio-4680.

         {¶ 6} In February 2014, Peoples moved to vacate his aggravated murder conviction, asserting that it was void because the judgment of conviction did not dispose of the count of having a weapon while under disability. State v. Peoples, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 14AP-271, 2014-Ohio-5526, ¶ 5. The trial court denied that motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. Although the appellate court recognized that nothing in the record showed the disposition of the weapons charge, it nonetheless concluded that the trial court had jurisdiction to sentence Peoples, that the judgment of conviction satisfied Crim.R. 32(C), and that the doctrine of res judicata barred Peoples from raising his claim because he could have raised it in his direct appeal. Id. at ¶ 5, 8-11. We declined to accept jurisdiction over Peoples's appeal from that judgment. 142 Ohio St.3d 1453, 2015-Ohio-1591, 29 N.E.3d 1006.

         {¶ 7} On August 10, 2015, Peoples filed this mandamus action in the Tenth District Court of Appeals to compel Judge Johnson to vacate the aggravated murder conviction and issue a judgment in his criminal case that disposes of all counts in the indictment. Judge Johnson moved to dismiss, asserting that res judicata barred Peoples's claim and that the matter was moot because the trial court had already denied the motion to vacate the judgment of conviction. Because the motion to dismiss presented matters outside the pleadings, the court of appeals treated it as a motion for summary judgment. See Civ.R. 12(B).

         {¶ 8} The court of appeals determined that Peoples had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law by way of appeal and that having exercised that right, his request for a writ of mandamus was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Therefore, the court concluded that no genuine issue of material fact existed and that Judge Johnson was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         {¶ 9} On appeal to this court, Peoples contends that the court of appeals erred in granting summary judgment to Judge Johnson because the trial court's judgment of conviction fails to dispose of all counts charged in the indictment and thus was not a final appealable order. He maintains that the court of appeals lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to review either his conviction or the denial of his motion to vacate that conviction, and he therefore asserts that his mandamus action is not barred by res judicata and that he is entitled to a writ of mandamus ...


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