Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No.
E. PIEPMEIER, Atty. Reg. Nos. 0002166, 0006894P, Attorney for
E. WILHELM, Atty. Reg. Nos. 0055407, 0051928, Assistant
Federal Public Defender, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant
1} George Skatzes appeals from the trial court's
October 19, 2019 order denying his successive petition for
postconviction relief and granting the State's motion to
dismiss that petition. We hereby affirm the judgment of the
2} This Court previously set forth the procedural
history of this case as follows:
In 1995, George Skatzes was found guilty of three counts of
aggravated murder arising out of an eleven-day inmate riot
and siege at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in
Lucasville. The riot occurred in April 1993. Skatzes was
convicted of killing two other inmates, Earl Elder and David
Sommers, and a corrections officer, Robert Vallandingham. He
was sentenced to death for Elder's and Sommers'
murders and to life imprisonment for Vallandingham's
murder. Skatzes was also found guilty of three counts of
kidnapping, for which he received three concurrent sentences
of fifteen to twenty-five years.
Skatzes appealed from his conviction and sentence. In 2003,
we affirmed his conviction on the three aggravated murders
and two of the kidnappings, and we affirmed the imposition of
the death penalty. We vacated Skatzes' conviction on the
third kidnapping. State v. Skatzes, Montgomery App.
No. 15848, 2003-Ohio-516.
While an appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio was pending,
Skatzes filed a petition for postconviction relief. In 2004,
the supreme court affirmed his conviction and sentence.
State v. Skatzes, 104 Ohio St.3d 195,
2004-Ohio-6391, 819 N.E.2d 215. In January 2007, Skatzes
filed a motion for new trial based on new evidence. In July
2007, the trial court denied Skatzes' petition for
postconviction relief without a hearing. In October 2007, the
trial court overruled Skatzes' motion for a new trial.
State v. Skatzes, 2d Dist. Montgomery Nos. 22322,
22484, 2008-Ohio-5387, ¶ 2-4 (overruling 12 assignments
of error related to the denial of his petition for
postconviction relief and three assignments of error related
to the denial of his motion for a new trial.)
3} In Skatzes's petition, he asserted that his
death sentence should be vacated based upon Hurst v.
Florida, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 616, 193
L.Ed.2d 504 (2016). He argued that, first, his death sentence
violated the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments because
"the jury did not make the necessary, specific, factual
findings as required under Hurst, and second, his
"death sentence must be vacated because the Ohio Capital
sentencing scheme in effect when [he] was tried violates the
newly created right of plenary jury fact-finding required
4} In denying his petition, the trial court noted as
Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court held that Ohio's death
penalty scheme does not run afoul of Hurst. In
State v. Mason, [153 Ohio St.3d 476');">153 Ohio St.3d 476,
2018-Ohio-1462, 108 N.E.3d 56], the Ohio Supreme Court
affirmed a decision by the Third District Court of Appeals
holding that a trial court erred by finding that the Ohio
capital sentencing structure was unconstitutional under
Hurst. Id. at ¶ 3-4. In upholding Ohio's
capital sentencing scheme, the Ohio Supreme Court stated
that it passes constitutional muster under Hurst
because it places responsibility for making all factual
determinations regarding whether a defendant should be
sentenced to death with the jury.
5} The trial court ...