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State v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

April 27, 2018

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
DARREN TAYLOR Defendant-Appellant

          Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No. 2011-CR-4317

          MATHIAS H. HECK, JR., by ALICE B. PETERS, Atty. Reg. No. 0093945, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          DARREN TAYLOR, #685345, Defendant-Appellant, Pro Se


          FROELICH, J.

         {¶ 1} Darren Taylor, pro se, appeals from the denial of his "motion to vacate and/or suspend court cost, " which addressed the total assessed by the clerk of courts. For the following reasons, the trial court's denial of Taylor's motion to vacate and/or suspend court costs will be affirmed as to restitution and reversed as to court costs, and the matter will be remanded for consideration of Taylor's indigency and his present and/or future ability to pay court costs.

         I. Procedural History

         {¶ 2} In May 2013, Taylor was found guilty after a jury trial in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas of four counts of murder (relating to two victims) and one count each of aggravated robbery and felonious assault; each count included a firearm specification. The trial court found Taylor guilty of having weapons while under disability after a bench trial. After merging several offenses and firearm specifications, Taylor was sentenced to two terms of 15 years to life in prison for two murder charges, to be served consecutively, and to an additional 3 years for each of the firearm specifications associated with those two murder counts. Taylor's aggregate prison term was 36 years to life in prison.

         {¶ 3} In addition to the prison term, the trial court ordered Taylor to pay $6, 575.49 in restitution, $192 dollars to the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office for extradition costs, and court costs, as determined by the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts. The court ordered that $168.60 found on Taylor's person at the time of his arrest be forfeited and applied to Taylor's restitution and/or court costs. No fine was imposed.

         {¶ 4} Taylor appealed from his conviction, claiming that the trial court erred in failing to suppress evidence obtained from warrantless searches of his cell phones, including the GPS data obtained thereby. We affirmed Taylor's conviction. State v. Taylor, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 25764, 2014-Ohio-2550.

         {¶ 5} On August 12, 2016, Taylor filed a motion to vacate and/or suspend court costs. Taylor stated that the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts had assessed a total of $8, 970.55 against his institutional accounts. He informed the court that he receives $19 per month in prison earnings, which is spent on electricity ($1 deducted monthly from his account), hygiene products, postage, stationery, and legal copies. Taylor stated that, given his lengthy sentence, there were "no realistic expectations of increasing his income until his release" and that he has no cash, bonds, savings, or property that can be levied toward his financial obligation. Taylor supported his motion with an affidavit stating that he had been incarcerated since 2011, that he receives $19 per month, that he must pay for utility charges and medical expenses from those funds, that all monies received from outside sources are gifts for the payment of personal items, and that he is "without sufficient funds to pay the required costs and fees of this action."

         {¶ 6} On August 19, 2016, the trial court overruled Taylor's motion. The trial court's decision stated, in its entirety:

It is well-settled that costs may be assessed against all criminal defendants, including those who are indigent. State v. Threatt, 108 Ohio St.3d 277, 279, 282 (2006). Upon review, the Court notes that Defendant made the choices which led to the accrual of the fees at issue, and he must take responsibility for his conduct, as well as the resulting consequences. Moreover, there is no evidence that Defendant is unable to make any payment toward the costs at this time, or that he will not be able to make payments toward the fees once his term of incarceration ends. Therefore, the Court finds that it is not necessary to vacate and/or suspend Defendant's costs in this matter, and OVERRULES Defendant's Motion to Vacate and/or Suspend Court Costs.

         {¶ 7} Taylor sought reconsideration of the trial court's ruling. On March 16, 2017, the trial court denied the motion for reconsideration. The trial court stated: "Here, the Defendant is asking the Court to reconsider its previous decision on this exact issue. The Defendant has neither demonstrated a manifest injustice nor any additional evidence to overrule the Court's original decision. The Court stands by that decision and finds that the Defendant was properly sentenced to pay Court Costs. Therefore, the doctrine of res judicata stands and the previous decision on the Defendant's prior motion is controlling."

         {¶ 8} Taylor appealed from the trial court's denial of his motion for reconsideration. The State sought to dismiss the appeal, arguing that a decision on a motion for reconsideration is a nullity and that Taylor had failed to timely appeal from the August 19, 2016 decision. In response, Taylor requested that we allow him to pursue a delayed appeal from the August 19, 2016 decision. We granted Taylor's motion for a delayed appeal, indicating that we would construe the appeal as arising from both ...

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