Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler
APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No.
Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney,
Michael Greer, Government Services Center, for
Ray Watkins, defendant-appellant, pro se.
1} Defendant-appellant, Johnny Ray Watkins, appeals
from the decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas
denying his untimely petition for postconviction relief, a
petition he captioned as a verified motion to correct
sentence, filed nearly ten years after a jury found him
guilty of murder, three counts of tampering with evidence,
and intimidation of a witness. For the reasons outlined
below, we affirm.
2} On August 31, 2005, the Butler County Grand Jury
returned an indictment charging Watkins with the above-named
offenses. According to the bill of particulars, the charges
arose after it was discovered Watkins struck Steve Eakins in
the head with a large piece of wood, incapacitating him,
before killing Eakins by slitting his throat. After killing
Eakins, Watkins then burnt the large piece of wood he used to
incapacitate Eakins, pushed Eakins' body into a nearby
pond, and cleaned and changed his clothing to alter and
destroy evidence of Eakins' murder. Watkins then
threatened several eyewitnesses to Eakins' murder that he
would kill them if they ever told anyone about the killing.
The matter was ultimately tried to a jury who found Watkins
guilty of these offenses on November 1, 2006.
3} On December 20, 2006, the trial court held a
sentencing hearing, wherein it sentenced Watkins to serve an
aggregate term of 21 years to life in prison. The trial
court, however, declined to impose postrelease control for
any of the offenses, stating: "I am specifically not
going to order [postrelease control] in this matter since
[Watkins] is going to be on parole, if released, because
there's a life tail on the murder charge." The trial
court's judgment entry, however, specifically stated that
"[t]he Court has notified the defendant that post
release control is mandatory in this case up to a maximum of
five (5) years, as well as the consequences for violating
conditions of post release control imposed by the Parole
Board under Revised Code Section 2967.28 [sic]."
4} On January 30, 2007, Watkins appealed his
convictions to this court, but did not raise any challenge
regarding the trial court's decision not to impose
postrelease control. On March 10, 2008, this court affirmed
Watkin's convictions in an accelerated calendar judgment
entry. State v. Watkins, 12th Dist. Butler No.
CA2007-01 -035 (Mar. 10, 2008) (Accelerated Calendar Judgment
Entry). A second appeal to this court regarding the
imposition of court costs also resulted in this court issuing
an accelerated calendar judgment entry affirming the trial
court's decision. State v. Watkins, 12th Dist.
Butler No. CA2007-11-283 (Apr. 21, 2008) (Accelerated
Calendar Judgment Entry).
5} On August 13, 2010, Watkins filed a motion with
the trial court requesting he be resentenced since the trial
court failed to properly impose postrelease control for his
lower-level convictions at the December 20, 2006 sentencing
hearing. The trial court denied Watkins' motion. However,
in State v. Watkins, 12th Dist. Butler Nos.
CA2010-09-228 and CA2010-12-346, 2011-Ohio-5227, this court
reversed the trial court's decision and remanded the
matter back to the trial court to hold a resentencing hearing
to correct this error in accordance with R.C. 2929.191.
6} On November 3, 2011, the trial court held a
resentencing hearing, wherein it properly imposed postrelease
control for Watkins' lower-level convictions in
accordance with R.C. 2929.191 as instructed by this court.
The following day, November 4, 2011, the trial court issued a
nunc pro tunc judgment entry of conviction, from which
Watkins filed yet another appeal. From this appeal,
Watkins' appellate counsel filed a brief with this court
pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 87
S.Ct. 1396 (1967), which stated that a careful review of the
record failed to reveal any error by the trial court that
prejudiced Watkins' rights upon which an assignment of
error could be predicated. After independently reviewing the
record in this case as required by Anders, this
court was also unable to find any error prejudicial to
Watkins' rights. Therefore, finding Watkins' appeal
to be wholly frivolous, this court dismissed Watkins'
appeal in State v. Watkins, 12th Dist. Butler No.
CA2011-11-215, 2012-Ohio-2254, ¶ 3.
7} Several years later, on January 19, 2017, Watkins
filed another motion with the trial court requesting he be
resentenced. Watkins captioned this motion as a verified
motion to correct sentence. In support of this motion,
Watkins argued the trial court failed to properly advise him
of postrelease control at the November 3, 2011 resentencing
hearing; improperly ordered several of the sentences imposed
for his lower-level convictions to be served consecutively;
incorrectly imposed a sentence of 15 years to life for his
conviction of murder; and failed to inform him of his right
8} On April 24, 2017, after recasting Watkins'
so-called verified motion to correct sentence as a petition
for postconviction relief, the trial court denied
Watkins' motion as untimely and otherwise barred by the
doctrine of res judicata. Nevertheless, although finding
Watkins' motion must be dismissed based on procedural
grounds, the trial court also noted that Watkins was properly
advised of postrelease control at the November 3, 2011
resentencing hearing; that ordering Watkins to serve a number
of the sentences imposed for his lower-level convictions
consecutively was not error; that Watkins was correctly
sentenced to serve a 15 year to life prison term for his
conviction of murder; and that any failure to advise Watkins
of his right to appeal after his initial December 20, 2006
sentencing hearing was harmless "due to [Watkins']
consistent exercise of his right to appeal."
9} Watkins now appeals from the trial court's
decision, raising the following single assignment of error
10} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION
WHEN IT DENIED AND OVERRULED DEFENDANT-APPELLANT'S
VERIFIED MOTION TO CORRECT SENTENCE, WITHOUT A HEARING TO
OBTAIN EVIDENCE AND FACTS OUTSIDE AND ON THE RECORD THAT
PROVIDE THAT THE ...