Wednesday, August 24, 2016
State v. Jackson - death penalty; no right to be resentenced by new judge after original judge was publicly reprimanded for violating Code of Judicial Conduct in connection with first sentencing
In State v. Jackson , the Court affirmed the death penalty imposed upon Nathaniel Jackson for the 2001 murder of Robert Fingerhut. Jackson and his co-defendant, Donna Brooks (the victim's former wife), were initially sentenced to death in 2002. Roberts's death sentence was vacated by the Court in 2006, on the ground that the sentencing judge engaged in improper ex parte communications with an assistant prosecutor regarding the sentencing opinion, an act for which the Court later publicly reprimanded the judge. Jackson used the decision in Roberts's case and the public reprimand--and the judge's admission that the same type of ex parte communications had occurred in Jackson's case--to obtain post-conviction relief in the form of a new sentencing hearing. The new sentencing hearing was conducted by the same judge, who in 2012 again sentenced Jackson to death in an opinion that Jackson characterized as substantially identical to the 2002 "tainted" sentencing opinion. The Court rejected these arguments, holding in part that because Jackson had attempted to have the judge removed through the Ohio Constitution's judicial disqualification mechanism, and that disqualification was denied, relitigation of whether the judge was biased against Jackson was barred by res judicata. The Court further held that there was no showing that the taint of the 2002 sentencing opinion carried over to the 2012 sentencing opinion. Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger dissented on the grounds that the lower court did not properly consider Jackson's allocution upon resentencing; she wrote that the 2012 sentencing opinion was clearly prepared in advance of the resentencing hearing because it was filed immediately after the hearing, thus violating Jackson's right to allocution.