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State v. Morris

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

July 26, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
STEPHEN MORRIS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Trial No. B-1706912

          Joseph T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Paula E. Adams, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Plaintiff-Appellee,

          Timothy J. McKenna, for Defendant-Appellant.

          OPINION

          MYERS, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Stephen Morris appeals from the trial court's judgment convicting him, upon a guilty plea, of rape. In three assignments of error, he argues that the trial court erred in denying his request for independent laboratory testing of DNA evidence, that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance, and that his plea was not entered knowingly or voluntarily because the trial court failed to properly advise him about postrelease control.

         {¶2} Finding Morris's assignments of error to be without merit, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         {¶3} The grand jury issued an indictment charging Morris with two counts of rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b). The victim of these offenses was a 12-year-old girl who became pregnant following the rape. DNA testing obtained by the state showed that Morris was the father of the victim's baby.

         {¶4} Morris's counsel made an oral motion for the DNA samples to be retested at a private lab, but the trial court overruled the motion. Morris then entered a guilty plea to one count of rape in return for the state dismissing the second count. The trial court imposed a sentence of 10 years' to life imprisonment.

         Denial of Independent DNA Test

         {¶5} In his first assignment of error, Morris argues that the trial court erred by denying his request for independent laboratory testing of the DNA evidence.

         {¶6} A guilty plea waives "any complaint as to claims of constitutional violations not related to the entry of the guilty plea." State v. Ketterer, 111 Ohio St.3d 70, 2006-Ohio-5283, 855 N.E.2d 48, ¶ 105; see State v. Watson, 1st Dist. Hamilton Nos. C-170598 and C-170648, 2018-Ohio-4971, ¶ 3 (a guilty plea "waives the right to appeal all nonjurisdictional defects in the proceedings."). By pleading guilty, Morris waived the right to challenge the trial court's denial of his request for an independent DNA test. The first assignment of error is accordingly overruled.

         Ineffective Assistance

         {¶7} In a related second assignment of error, Morris argues that his counsel was ineffective for failing to file a written motion for independent laboratory testing of the DNA evidence.

         {¶8} Counsel will not be considered ineffective unless her or his performance was deficient and caused actual prejudice to the defendant. Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); State v. Bradley,42 Ohio St.3d 136, 141-142, 538 N.E.2d 373 (1989). Counsel's performance will only be deemed deficient if it fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Strickland at 688; Bradley at 142. A defendant is only prejudiced by counsel's performance if there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different but for the deficient performance. Strickland at 694; Bradley at 142. ...


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