Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Supreme Court To Review Case of Police Detective Convicted of Abduction, Witness Intimidation For Abuse of Arrest Powers

Among Eight Cases to be Heard by the Court on March 12-13

Image of Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justice Paul E. Pfeiffer during oral arguments in the Supreme Court courtroom.

Eight cases are scheduled for oral argument March 12 and 13.

Image of Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justice Paul E. Pfeiffer during oral arguments in the Supreme Court courtroom.

Eight cases are scheduled for oral argument March 12 and 13.

The Supreme Court of Ohio will hear oral arguments in eight cases on March 12 and 13,  including the case of a former Cincinnati police detective who was convicted of witness intimidation and abduction based on his false arrest and detention of a juvenile robbery suspect whom the officer  knew had no involvement in the crimes for which he was arrested.

The court’s Office of Public Information today released previews summarizing each of the cases that will be argued during the upcoming session.

In  State v. Steele, the first case to be argued on Tuesday, March 12, the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office brought criminal charges against detective Julian Steele after it determined that he had abused his position by intimidating 17-year-old Ramone Maxton into making a false confession to a string of street-corner robberies and having Maxton locked up in a detention facility for more than a week despite acknowledging to multiple witnesses that he knew the youth was innocent that Steele was holding him in order to coerce the boy’s mother into providing information about the case.  The prosecutor also determined that Steele had used his ability to keep Ramone in custody to coerce the mother into engaging in a sexual liaison with Steele.  Steele was convicted by a jury of intimidating a witness and two counts of abduction, and sentenced to five years in prison and five years of postrelease control.

On review, the First District Court of Appeals affirmed Steele’s conviction for witness intimidation, but ordered that he receive a new trial on the abduction charges based on the appeals court’s finding that a standard jury instruction on abduction that was given by the judge at Steele’s trial was insufficient to address the special situation of a police officer, on whom the law confers the unique “privilege” to arrest and incarcerate other persons based on a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.

Attorneys for Steele urge the court to affirm the First District’s finding that the standard instruction given by the judge at his trial would allow a jury to convict a police officer of abduction in cases where the officer placed a suspect under arrest based on a mistaken but good faith belief that he had probable cause to do so, but a court later determined that there was no probable cause for the arrest.

Attorneys for the state urge the court to overrule the court of appeals and reinstate Steele’s convictions for abduction. They point out that Steele’s attorneys agreed to the content of the jury instructions on abduction and “privilege” before they were given, and did not object to those instructions at any later time during the trial or challenge their sufficiency in Steele’s notice of appeal.  They argue that the First District erred in finding that the instructions constituted “plain error” because no evidence in the trial record suggests that Steele ever believed he had probable cause to arrest Maxton, whereas multiple witnesses testified that Steele acknowledged as early as the morning after Ramone’s arrest that Steele believed him to be innocent.

Other cases to be argued on March 12 include:

  • Boice v. Ottawa Hills, in which the owners of a 33,000 square foot vacant lot in a residential neighborhood allege that they are entitled to compensation for a regulatory “taking” of their land based on a change in local zoning regulations that increased the minimum size of a lot on which a home could be built in their subdivision from 15,000 square feet at the time they purchased the lot to 35,000 square feet.
  • In Parrish v. Skocik, the court is asked to determine whether a trial court considering a defendant’s motion for a directed verdict at the close of the plaintiff’s opening statement in a civil case must consider not only the content of the opening statement but also the allegations set forth in the plaintiff’s written pleadings before ruling on the motion for directed verdict.
  • In State v. Davis a criminal defendant who was accused of a single homicide but charged under two different “theories” of murder for that crime asks the court to vacate his felony murder conviction and grant him a new trial on the basis that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter, and that refusal resulted in prejudice to the defendant despite the fact that he was acquitted of the separate “purposeful murder” count for which he requested the manslaughter instruction.

The cases scheduled for argument on Wednesday, March 13 include:

  • State v. Lalain, in which a defendant convicted of the theft of property valued at between $500 and $5,000 from his former employer asks the court to overrule lower court rulings that included in his sentence for that offense an order that he pay more than $63,000 in “restitution” to the employer.
  • In Supportive Solutions Training Academy v. Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the court is asked to determine whether a provision of the state’s “sovereign immunity” statute that authorizes political subdivisions to immediately appeal trial court orders that “deny them the benefit of an alleged immunity” allows a charter school to immediately appeal a trial court order that denied a motion by the school to amend its original answer to a plaintiff’s lawsuit in order to add the affirmative defense of sovereign immunity.
  • McDonald v. State is a criminal case from Lawrence County in which a driver argues that  his felony conviction for failure to comply with an order or direction of a police officer should be reduced to a misdemeanor because the verdict form signed by the jury did not indicate the degree of the charged offense, did not identify the Revised Code subsection under which he was charged, and did not include a finding by the jury that he “willfully eluded or fled” from an officer.
  • In State v. Willan, the state urges the court to reverse a decision in which the Ninth District Court of Appeals held that a sentencing law that imposes a mandatory 10-year prison sentence on persons convicted of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity when that activity includes a first-degree felony did not apply to an Akron man found guilty under the corrupt activity statute based on three first-degree felony convictions for falsifying securities registration documents.