Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court Orders New Sentence in Juvenile Rape Case

Based on a holding earlier this year that juveniles are entitled to the same constitutional double-jeopardy protections as adults, the Ohio Supreme Court today ordered a new disposition hearing for a Cleveland juvenile found delinquent for raping his 12-year-old cousin.

The Supreme Court voted 5-2 to reverse the Eighth District Court of Appeals decision that upheld the multiple commitments for rape by a juvenile, identified in court documents as “R.A.H. Jr.” The Court’s brief entry stated its decision is based on its In re A.G. opinion, where in June it reversed the Eighth District’s position that juveniles are not afforded the same constitutional protections against multiple punishments as adults face.

The ruling requires a Cuyahoga County juvenile court to conduct the same double-jeopardy analysis in R.A.H. Jr.’s delinquency proceedings as an adult court would apply in criminal proceedings.

Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote the Court’s In re A.G decision. In that case, A.G. appealed his sentence to the Eighth District, claiming the juvenile court failed to merge his adjudications for aggravated robbery and kidnapping as allied offenses of similar import, and that this failure violated the double-jeopardy clauses of the U.S. and Ohio constitutions. The Eighth District concluded that the two acts would merge into one offense under R.C. 2941.25 if committed by an adult, but refused to apply the statute to A.G., a juvenile. The Supreme Court ruled though, that double jeopardy protects against multiple punishments for the same offense, and failing to merge two offenses into one offense with one punishment is a constitutional violation.

Juvenile Found Delinquent on All Counts
R.A.H. Jr. was charged with gross sexual imposition and two counts of rape based on a single incident of digitally penetrating his cousin while she was asleep. He was found delinquent on all counts and was committed to a juvenile detention facility for six months for gross sexual imposition, and two 12-month commitments for each of the rape counts. The trial court suspended the commitments and placed him on two years of community control.

The Eighth District reversed the gross sexual imposition finding, but affirmed the two rape counts and the juvenile court’s two separate 12-month commitments. R.A.H. Jr. argued the sentences should have merged under the allied offense law and he should receive only one punishment.

The Court remanded R.A.H. Jr.’s case to juvenile court to apply the double jeopardy analysis to the two rape counts.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Lanzinger, Judith L. French, and William M. O’Neill concurred with the opinion.

Dissenting Justices Hold Same Positions as in Earlier Case
Justices Terrence O’Donnell and Sharon L. Kennedy dissented, stating their position is based on their In re A.G. dissent.

In In re A.G., Justice O’Donnell wrote that the Court majority was taking another step toward characterizing juvenile court proceedings as criminal while “upending settled constitutional principles regarding double jeopardy.”

Before In re A.G., the Court had not ruled the allied offenses statute applied to juvenile delinquency proceedings, while many Ohio appellate courts had ruled that R.C. 2941.25 is a criminal statute and does not apply to juvenile proceedings, he stated.

Justice O’Donnell wrote the legislature does vest juvenile courts with the discretion to impose consecutive detention commitments as long as the total commitment does not exceed a child reaching 21 years old.

2015-1610. In re R.A.H., Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-7592.

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