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State v. Skatzes

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

September 6, 2019

STATE OF OHIO Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
GEORGE SKATZES Defendant-Appellant

          Criminal Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No. 94-CR-2890

          MARK E. PIEPMEIER, Atty. Reg. Nos. 0002166, 0006894P, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee

          JOSEPH E. WILHELM, Atty. Reg. Nos. 0055407, 0051928, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Attorney for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          DONOVAN, J.

         {¶ 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 trial court.

         {¶ 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 by" Hurst.

         {¶ 4} In denying his petition, the trial court noted as follows:

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 ...


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