Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Supreme Court to Consider Two Death-Penalty Appeals

Image of a female attorney presenting oral arguments before the Chief Justice and Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear six cases during July oral arguments.

Image of a female attorney presenting oral arguments before the Chief Justice and Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear six cases during July oral arguments.

The Ohio Supreme Court will hear two separate appeals from death-row inmates in cases from Summit and Medina counties during July oral arguments.

Dawud Spaulding was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2011 Akron murders of his children’s mother and her boyfriend, as well as the attempted murder of another man. A court imposed the death penalty on Steven Cepec following his conviction for the 2010 murder of a Chatham Township man.

Akron Double Homicide
In the Akron case, Spaulding’s ex-girlfriend Erica Singleton reported to police on Nov. 28, 2011, that Spaulding had broken into her house and threatened her. He had been convicted of domestic violence against Singleton earlier in the year and in 2010. Singleton obtained a civil protection order against him on Dec. 1, 2011. However, on Dec. 15, Spaulding shot Patrick Griffin outside the residence where Ernest Thomas, Singleton’s boyfriend, lived. Griffin was left paralyzed by his injuries. A few hours later, in the same location, Spaulding shot and killed Singleton and Thomas.

A jury convicted Spaulding for aggravated murder, attempted murder, violation of a protection order, and other offenses.

Spaulding raises concerns about Griffin’s identification of him as the shooter, noting Griffin first selected no one from the police photo array he was shown. Spaulding also argues that the jury’s trip to the crime scene shouldn’t have taken place without the judge, a court reporter, and him. He also claims his attorneys were ineffective in their representation because they weren’t both present during critical points in his case.

Medina County Murder
Cepec occasionally borrowed money and got rides from Frank Munz. On June 3, 2010, Cepec, who had left his halfway house without authorization, visited Munz at his home. Munz’s nephew called 911 when he heard two loud thumps, the sound of choking, and someone going through rooms of the house. Police found Munz lying on the kitchen floor. He had been hit repeatedly with a hammer and choked with a lamp cord, and died from his injuries. Cepec was found nearby hiding in a bush.

A jury found Cepec guilty of aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary.

Cepec contests statements made during the trial by his parole officer, who mentioned Cepec’s prior burglary convictions. Although the jury was instructed to disregard these statements, Cepec asserts that he deserves a new trial because of the comments. He also argues the trial court should’ve held a hearing to evaluate the competency of Munz’s nephew after the judge asked whether the witness was developmentally challenged. In addition, Cepec contends his constitutional rights were violated when police continued to question him after he asked whether he could have a lawyer before officers administered a chemical test that would check for traces of blood on his hands.

Oral Arguments
State v. Spaulding will be heard on Tuesday, July 12, and State v. Cepec will be considered on Wednesday, July 13. Four other cases will also be argued during this session. Arguments on both days will begin at 9 a.m. at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus and will be streamed live online at and broadcast live on The Ohio Channel.

Previews Available
Along with the brief descriptions below, the Office of Public Information today released previews of the six cases.

Cases for Tuesday, July 12
In 2010, Buckeye Wind became Ohio’s first wind-powered generation facility to receive a construction certificate from the Ohio Power Siting Board. When developers returned in 2013 to the board to amend their construction plans, Champaign County and some townships where the wind farm is slated to be built objected. The Court in In re Application of Buckeye Wind will consider the local governments’ request to have a hearing on all the proposed revisions before the board can authorize the changes.

Case for Wednesday, July 13
Three college students who were arrested, but not convicted, for refusing to leave the property of another student in 2013 filed a civil lawsuit in federal court alleging the defendants negligently accused them of a crime. In Foley v. University of Dayton, the federal court has asked the Supreme Court what the statute of limitations is for filing a negligent misidentification claim and whether absolute privilege or qualified privilege shield the defendants’ statements to law enforcement.