Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
REUBIN J. BEAVERS Plaintiff-Appellee
STATE OF OHIO Defendant-Appellant
Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No.
BRADLEY D. ANDERSON, Atty. Reg. No. 0061325 and KEVIN M.
DARNELL, Atty. Reg. No. 0095952, Attorneys for
KATHERINE BOCKBRADER, Atty. Reg. No. 0066472, TIFFANY L.
CARWILE, Atty. Reg. No. 0082522, and JUSTIN T. RADIC, Atty.
Reg. No. 0082697 Attorneys for Defendant-Appellant
1} The State of Ohio appeals from a trial court
decision declaring Reubin Beavers a "wrongfully
imprisoned individual" under R.C. 2743.48. The state
argues that Beavers does not satisfy the statutory definition
of "wrongly imprisoned individual" in R.C.
2743.48(A). We agree that Beavers does not satisfy the fourth
statutory condition because criminal proceedings against him
are still legally permissible. Therefore, we reverse.
The criminal case against Beavers
2} Beavers's underlying criminal case has a long
history. It began with Beavers's conviction in 1995 and
ended in 2013 with the dismissal, without prejudice, of the
charges against him. In between, the case, as outlined below,
came before this Court no less than seven times.
3} In 1995, a jury convicted Beavers of one count of
felonious assault and two counts of shooting at or into a
habitation, specifically, an illicit gambling club operating
in a house. Beavers appealed, challenging the sufficiency of
the evidence, and we affirmed in State v. Beavers,
2d Dist. Montgomery No. 15265, 2000 WL 84557 (Jan. 28, 2000)
4} In 1996, Beavers filed his first petition for
post-conviction relief, in which he argued, in part, that his
trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call Raney Mease
to testify at trial. Mease claimed he had met Beavers in
prison after the latter's conviction, after overhearing
Beavers describe the case to another inmate. Mease said that
he was outside the gambling club during the shooting and saw
the shooter and that it was not Beavers. The trial court
denied the petition without a hearing, but this court
reversed in State v. Beavers, 2d Dist. Montgomery
No. 16362 1997 WL 797729 (Dec. 31, 1997) (Beavers
II). That panel of the court concluded that the trial
court should have held an evidentiary hearing to consider
Mease's testimony. The trial court held a hearing on
remand and again denied Beavers's postconviction-relief
petition. That denial was affirmed in State v.
Beavers, 2d Dist. Montgomery No. 17949, 2000 WL 426164
(Apr. 21, 2000) (Beavers III).
5} In 2000, Beavers filed a motion for a new trial
based on newly discovered evidence. The parties stipulated
that a hearing was unnecessary. It was not until 2005 that
the trial court denied the motion. Although the parties had
stipulated the case would be submitted to the trial court on
written and documentary submissions, this court reversed and
remanded the case for a hearing in State v. Beavers,
166 Ohio App.3d 605, 2006-Ohio-1128, 852 N.E.2d 754 (2d
Dist.) (Beavers V), concluding that a hearing was
"necessary to resolve the issues," Beavers
V at ¶ 22. The trial court held a hearing on remand
and again denied the motion for a new trial. This court
reversed and remanded in State v. Beavers, 2d Dist.
Montgomery No. 22588, 2009-Ohio-5604 (Beavers VI).
That panel concluded that if a jury were to hear Mease's
testimony, along with all the other evidence, there was a
"strong probability that the jury would have reasonable
doubt, and acquit." Beavers VI at ¶ 37.
6} The state filed an application for
reconsideration of our judgment in Beavers VI,
arguing that it had its own newly discovered evidence,
contradicting Mease's testimony, discovered after the
trial court's hearing on the new-trial motion. The state
asked that this court remand for a new hearing on the
new-trial motion so that the state could present its
additional evidence. The state's application was denied
because the state was relying on evidence outside the record.
But it was noted that on remand, because the trial court had
not specifically been directed to order a new trial, it was
within the court's discretion to hear new evidence on the
motion. The trial court decided to hold another hearing;
then, finding that Mease lacked credibility, the court denied
the motion for a new trial. This court then reversed and
remanded in State v. Beavers, 2d Dist. Montgomery
No. 24671, 2012-Ohio-3711 (Beavers VII). This time
we directed the trial court to order a new trial, saying that
credibility was primarily for a jury to decide.
7} On September 16, 2013, the trial court, at the
request of the state, entered an order dismissing the charges
against Beavers without prejudice. Well before Beavers
VI or the new trial ordered in Beavers VII,
Beavers completed his prison sentence; he was released from
prison in 2008, and he was released from parole the year
following his release from prison.
Beavers's action for wrongful imprisonment
8} In May 2015, Beavers filed a civil action to be
declared a wrongfully imprisoned individual under R.C.
2743.48. Division (A) of the statute defines a
"wrongfully imprisoned individual" as one who
satisfies these five conditions:
(1) The individual was charged with a violation of a section
of the Revised Code by an indictment or information, and the
violation charged was an aggravated felony or felony.
(2) The individual was found guilty of, but did not plead
guilty to, the particular charge or a lesser-included offense
by the court or jury involved, and the offense of which the
individual was found guilty was an aggravated felony or
(3) The individual was sentenced to an indefinite or definite
term of imprisonment in a state correctional institution for
the offense of which the individual was found guilty.
(4) The individual's conviction was vacated, dismissed,
or reversed on appeal, the prosecuting attorney in the case
cannot or will not seek any further appeal of right or upon
leave of court, and no criminal proceeding is pending, can be
brought, or will be brought by any prosecuting attorney, city
director of law, village solicitor, or other chief legal
officer of a municipal corporation against the individual for
any act associated with that conviction.
(5) Subsequent to sentencing and during or subsequent to
imprisonment, an error in procedure resulted in the
individual's release, or it was determined by the court
of common pleas in the county where the underlying criminal
action was initiated that the charged offense, including all
lesser-included offenses, either was not committed by the
individual or was not committed by any person.
9} The state moved for summary judgment on the
grounds that Beavers could not satisfy the fourth or fifth
condition. He could not satisfy the fourth condition, the
state argued, because criminal charges could be brought
against him until September 16, 2019, when the six-year
statute of limitations expired, six years after the dismissal
of the charges. The state argued that Beavers could not
satisfy the fifth condition because his release from prison
was not a result of an error after sentencing.
10} Beavers filed an amended complaint in which he
conceded that his "cause of action has not yet accrued
because it remains possible for a prosecuting attorney to
refile criminal charges against him due to the tolling
provisions of R.C. 2903.13(1)." (Amended Complaint,
¶ 27). Beavers also acknowledged that the "entire
period of time from the date of Plaintiffs arrest (October
23, 1994, the day after the date of the alleged offenses)
through the date of the entry of nolle prosequi (September
16, 2013) is excluded for purposes of calculating the
six-year statute of limitations." (Amended Complaint,
¶ 28). He also conceded that the statute of limitations
would not run until September 16, 2019.
11} The state again moved for summary judgment and
so did Beavers. The state reasserted its arguments that
Beavers could not satisfy the fourth and fifth conditions of
the statutory definition of "wrongfully imprisoned
individual" because criminal charges could be brought
against him until September 16, 2019, and because his release
from prison was not a result of an error after sentencing.
Beavers moved for partial judgment on whether the statute of
limitations for his wrongfully-imprisoned-individual claim
had already begun to run or whether it did not start to run
until after September 16, 2019. In a written decision entered
on July 17, 2017, the trial court rejected the state's
argument that Beavers could not satisfy the fourth statutory
condition. The court concluded that factual issues remained
as to that condition and ordered supplemental briefing. The
court also rejected the state's fifth-condition argument,
concluding that our decisions concerning Beavers's
postconviction-relief petition and motion for a new trial
showed that an "error in procedure" had
occurred-the criminal court's failure to grant a new
trial. The trial court said that it would permit the parties
to present evidence on the other way that Beavers could
satisfy the fifth condition, by proving that he did not
commit the offenses.
12} A trial was held at which several eyewitnesses
to the shooting testified. Beavers testified that he was not
the shooter. Raney Mease also testified that Beavers was not
the shooter. Rosalyn Wilcox, Beavers's niece, testified
that Beavers was in her car when the shooting occurred, so he
could not have been the shooter. The trial court also
admitted transcripts of the prior testimony of witnesses who
were unavailable. Two of these witnesses offered key
testimony for the state. One witness was Arthur Farmer, who
was the doorman at the illegal casino. He testified at the
1995 trial that he noticed Beavers at a gambling table in the
basement and "he was, loud, and boisterous, and
drunk." (Court's Exhibit V, at 138). After daylight,
the operation had shut down and the sun was out when he heard
loud banging at the front door but he did not immediately
answer. When he did go to the door he looked out the
"three little windows" and "I seen this guy
here [Beavers] reach in the back seat of a car, pull a rifle
out, cock the rifle, aim it at the house, and I hit the
ground. Gunshots started flying in the door."
(Id. at 144). He recognized Beavers as the shooter,
testifying as follows: "Well, from down there gambling
just a couple hours earlier, because he was loud, and I
recognized him. He had on the same clothes."
(Id. at 145). Farmer was shot in the foot while
crawling on the floor.
13} The other trial witness whose testimony by
transcript was introduced was Agnes Maston. Her ex-husband,
Robert Maston, was the operator of the gambling club,
although she had never been there. Her trial testimony was
that Beavers, who she had known for three or four years and
had spoken with "on more than one occasion"
(Court's Exhibit VI, at 220), called her the day of the
shooting and asked her to get in touch with Robert Maston for
him. Beavers told her that he had shot at the gambling house
and "[h]e told me to tell Robert that if there were any
damages done to the house, that he would pay for it."
(Id. at 223). Later that day, Agnes was at
Beaver's sister's house with her son to pick up some
gym shoes, and Beavers was present. "[A]s I came in the
door, well, he [Beavers] grabbed and hugged me; and he said
that he was sorry, and he was crying, because he was really
upset, he was crying, and he said that at that point he did
not know that he had shot anyone" (Id. at 225).
14} In a written decision entered on June 18, 2018,
the trial court, concluded that Beavers had satisfied the
fourth and fifth statutory conditions of the "wrongfully
imprisoned individual" definition in R.C. 2743.48(A).
Regarding the fourth condition, the court concluded that the
2013 dismissal should have been with prejudice to avoid
violating Beavers's constitutional due-process and
speedy-trial rights. The court held that these rights were
violated by the delay in retrying Beavers after Beavers
VI and Beavers VII, primarily because the delay
was unfair and a new indictment would violate due process. As
to the fifth condition, the court concluded that the
condition was satisfied in two ways. One, an error in
procedure had occurred-the criminal court had refused to
grant Beavers a new trial after Beavers VI and
Beavers VII. And two, Beavers had proven that he did
not commit the offenses. Having already concluded that
Beavers satisfied the first three conditions of the
"wrongfully imprisoned individual" definition, the
trial court therefore declared that Beavers was a wrongfully
15} The state appeals.
16} The state assigns two errors to the trial court.
The first challenges the trial court's conclusion that
Beavers satisfied the fourth condition of the
"wrongfully imprisoned individual" definition, and
the second challenges the court's conclusion that he
satisfied the fifth condition.
The fourth ...