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State v. Slaughter

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Lorain

June 3, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Appellee
v.
KEVIN JAMES SLAUGHTER Appellant

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE Nos. 92CR041558 92CR041574

          KEVIN JAMES SLAUGHTER, PRO SE, APPELLANT.

          DENNIS P. WILL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, AND NICHOLAS A. BONAMINIO, ASSISTANT PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, FOR APPELLEE.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JENNIFER HENSAL JUDGE.

         {¶1} Kevin James Slaughter appeals from the judgment of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, denying his motion for resentencing. This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} In 1993, Mr. Slaughter pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. The trial court accepted Mr. Slaughter's pleas and sentenced him to life imprisonment with parole eligibility after 30 years for aggravated murder, and "10 to 25 years imposed as actual incarceration" for aggravated robbery. The trial court ordered the sentences to run consecutively. Mr. Slaughter did not file a direct appeal. He subsequently filed three motions to withdraw his guilty pleas, all of which were denied, and all of which he did not appeal.

         {¶3} On February 15, 2018, Mr. Slaughter filed a "Motion to Resentence[, ]" challenging his 30-year sentence for aggravated murder on the basis that the trial court failed to sentence him pursuant to statute. Specifically, he argued that the trial court erred by sentencing him to a minimum term of 30 years, as opposed to the statutorily required 30 "full" years, which renders his sentence contrary to law and void. Mr. Slaughter's motion was precipitated by the fact that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("ODRC") denied him good-time credit, treating him as if the trial court sentenced him to 30 "full" years. The trial court denied Mr. Slaughter's motion. He has appealed, raising one assignment of error for our review.

         II.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR
THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW[] WHEN IT DENIED SLAUGHTER'S MOTION TO BE RESENTENCED TO CORRECT SENTENCE PURSUANT TO FORMER R.C. 2929.03(C)(2).

         {¶4} In his sole assignment of error, Mr. Slaughter argues that the omission of the word "full" from his sentence renders it void and, therefore, not subject to res judicata. Accordingly, he argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion for resentencing. This Court disagrees.

         {¶5} We begin our review by noting that "[m]ost sentencing challenges must be brought by a timely direct appeal." State v. Ibn-Ford, 9th Dist. Summit No. 27380, 2015-Ohio-753, ¶ 7, citing State v. Holdcroft, 137 Ohio St.3d 526, 2013-Ohio-5014, ¶ 8. "Res judicata 'bars the assertion of claims against a valid, final judgment of conviction that have been raised or could have been raised on appeal.'" State v. Marbury, 9th Dist. Summit No. 26889, 2013-Ohio-5306, ¶ 5, quoting State v. Ketterer, 126 Ohio St.3d 448, 2010-Ohio-3831, ¶ 59. "A void sentence, however, may be challenged at any time." Ibn-Ford at ¶ 7. "A void sentence is one that a court imposes despite lacking subject-matter jurisdiction or the authority to act." State v. Payne, 114 Ohio St.3d 502, 2007-Ohio-4642, ¶ 27. As the Ohio Supreme Court has explained, "[a]ny attempt by a court to disregard statutory requirements when imposing a sentence renders the attempted sentence a nullity or void." State v. Beasley, 14 Ohio St.3d 74, 75 (1984).

         {¶6} As previously noted, Mr. Slaughter argues that his sentence is void because the trial court disregarded the statutory requirement of sentencing him to 30 "full" years for aggravated murder. See R.C. 2929.03(C)(2)(a)(i). In support of his position, Mr. Slaughter relies upon the Tenth District's decision in State v. Berry, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 08AP-762, 2009-Ohio-1557. There, "[t]he trial court imposed a sentence of 30 years to life on the aggravated murder counts, which the trial court stated was to be 'actual' incarceration[.]" Id. at ¶ 3. Because the ODRC "was treating [the defendant] as if he were eligible to receive good time credit that would allow him to be considered for parole prior to completion of his sentence[, ]" the State moved for resentencing, arguing that "the court's omission of the word 'full' from its sentencing entry rendered the sentence void." Id. at ¶ 6. Without holding a new sentencing hearing, the trial court issued an amended judgment entry wherein it replaced the word "actual" with "full" in describing the defendant's 30-years-to-life sentence for aggravated murder. Id. at ...


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