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State v. Lawrence

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

July 8, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Appellee,
v.
DUSTIN TREVINO LAWRENCE, Appellant.

          CRIMINAL APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. CR2016-10-1598

          Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecuting Attorney, Willa Concannon, Government Services Center, for appellee

          Dustin Lawrence, #A734-936, Lorain Correctional Institution, pro se

          OPINION

          RINGLAND, P.J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Dustin Lawrence, appeals a decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas overruling in part his petition for postconviction relief. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} In October 2016, Lawrence was indicted on one count of gross sexual imposition, five counts of rape, one count of kidnapping, and one count of domestic violence. The charges stemmed from an incident involving S.K., the minor daughter of Lawrence's girlfriend, who Lawrence was accused of sexually assaulting in the home where he and S.K.'s mother lived. Lawrence pled not guilty to the charges. After a three-day jury trial, the jury found him guilty of all counts. The trial court merged several of the counts for sentencing purposes, and ultimately, Lawrence was sentenced to an aggregate mandatory sentence of 33 years in prison. Lawrence then filed a direct appeal related to his convictions, which remains pending with this court.

         {¶ 3} Thereafter, in August 2018, Lawrence filed a petition for postconviction relief, wherein he argued his sentence was in violation of due process and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. In support of his ineffective assistance of counsel allegation, Lawrence attached an unanswered discovery request mailed to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation ("BCI") - London office; a May 3, 2016 BCI Report; a Forensic Science Magazine article; and a New York Times article.

         {¶ 4} At the same time, Lawrence also filed a motion for postconviction discovery. In his motion, Lawrence indicated he was requesting documents and material related to the DNA evidence in the underlying case, and indicated the information was necessary to uncover evidence to support his postconviction grounds for relief.

         {¶ 5} In October 2018, the trial court granted in part and denied in part Lawrence's petition for postconviction relief. In its decision, the trial court set aside its sentencing of Lawrence, but denied the request in all other respects.[1] In denying the request for postconviction relief, the trial court indicated that res judicata applied to Lawrence's claims and that he failed to set forth sufficient operative facts to establish any grounds for relief. It further noted that Lawrence had failed to show good cause for vacating his conviction or setting an evidentiary hearing to address his request.

         {¶ 6} Similarly, the trial court also denied Lawrence's motion for postconviction discovery, finding that Lawrence failed to show good cause for the request and that the request was based upon pure speculation.

         {¶ 7} Lawrence now appeals, raising two assignments of error.

         {¶ 8} Assignment of Error No. 1:

         {¶ 9} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT FAILED TO GRANT APPELLANT RELIEF OR, AT A MINIMUM, AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING, CONTRARY TO R.C. 2953.21 AND THE APPELLANT'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS GUARANTEED BY THE OHIO AND U.S. CONSTITUTIONS.

         {¶ 10} In his first assignment of error, Lawrence argues that the court erred in dismissing the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing because his direct appeal has not yet been decided and he has presented evidence ...


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