Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020

State of Ohio v. Lance Hundley, Case no. 2018-0901
Seventh District Court of Appeals (Mahoning County)

State of Ohio v. John W. Long, Case no. 2019-0181
Second District Court of Appeals (Clark County)

State of Ohio v. Rogers T. Henderson, Case no. 2019-0182
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)

Man Convicted in Murder of Disabled Roommate Appeals Death Sentence

State of Ohio v. Lance Hundley, Case No. 2018-0901
Mahoning County Common Pleas Court

Lance Hundley was convicted for the November 2015 murder of a Youngstown woman who was his roommate, the attempted murder of the woman’s mother, and arson. Hundley was sentenced to death in a Mahoning County court in June 2018. He challenges his sentence and convictions in his automatic appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Youngstown Man Moves in with Acquaintance
Hundley moved into Erika Huff’s house in the fall of 2015. They had become acquainted with each other through Hundley’s brother, who is the father of Huff’s daughter. Hundley had been living with his brother, but asked Huff if he could stay at her house because his brother’s house had become too crowded.

Huff suffered from multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair because the disease prevented her from walking. Huff had aides who assisted her every day of the week, from morning into evening hours.

Disabled Woman’s Mother and 911 Receive Notice from Medical Alert Service
At 2 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2015, Huff’s medical alert system activated, and the service contacted 911 and Huff’s mother, Denise Johnson. An ambulance responded to the unknown medical emergency. An emergency medical technician (EMT) later testified that Hundley answered the door and said the alert was a false alarm, and the EMTs left.

At the same time, Johnson drove the seven or eight minutes to Huff’s house to check on her daughter. She testified that she entered the house and saw Hundley standing there with a gasoline can. She took the can and placed it in the garage. She said Hundley attacked her when she returned, hitting her with a hammer and saying that he killed her daughter and was going to kill her and her son. She passed out and awoke on Huff’s bedroom floor next to her daughter.

Smoke was filling the room, and Johnson moved toward the window and tried to knock out the air conditioning unit. Meanwhile, Johnson’s husband had called 911. Youngstown police arrived at Huff’s house, saw a fire in the bedroom, and helped Johnson out. They later found Hundley laying inside the front door with no visible injuries.

Hundley was charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, felonious assault, aggravated arson related to setting Huff’s body on fire, and aggravated arson for the house fire.

Defendant Disgruntled with Lawyers
At a hearing, the trial court determined Hundley was competent. During the proceedings, Hundley fired and replaced his attorneys a few times and represented himself during part of a suppression hearing. In testimony on his own behalf, he said an unknown man had attacked him and Huff, and he defended himself from an attack by Johnson.

The medical examiner testified that Huff died from blunt trauma to her head and body and from strangulation. The medical examiner stated that Huff’s death wasn’t immediate and she died before the fire was started.

Hundley asked to represent himself for the trial’s mitigation phase, and indicated he planned to make an unsworn statement. The judge agreed to let him represent himself. Hundley then declined to offer any evidence or to make a statement.

Jury Recommends Death Sentence
The jury found Hundley guilty on all counts and recommended the death penalty. The court imposed the death penalty as well as a 22-year prison sentence for attempted murder and arson.

Because the case involves a death sentence, Hundley receives an automatic appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. He has raised 10 legal arguments in his appeal.

Parties Disagree on Prior Calculation and Design
Hundley’s brief argues the state didn’t prove that Hundley committed murder with prior calculation and design. In a 1997 decision (State v. Taylor), the Ohio Supreme Court described three factors necessary to establish prior calculation and design:

  • Did the accused and the victim know each other, and if so, was that relationship strained?
  • Did the accused give thought or preparation to choosing the murder weapon or murder site?
  • Was the act drawn out or an almost spontaneous eruption of events?

Hundley states that the prosecutor relied on Johnson’s testimony regarding what he said to her about intending to kill her and her son next. He counters that those statements may indicate intent, but don’t demonstrate prior calculation and design. The events align more with a “spontaneous eruption of events,” he argues.

The Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office cites cases indicating that the amount of care or time spent planning a crime isn’t critical to showing prior calculation and design, and prior calculation and design can exist when the plan to kill was quickly conceived and executed. The prosecutor’s brief reemphasizes that Huff’s death wasn’t immediate and argues Hundley formed prior calculation and design to cause her death during his “elongated, deliberate attack.”

Questions Raised about Defendant Representing Himself
A physician who testified at Hundley’s competency hearing concluded in part that he has an antisocial personality disorder. Hundley’s brief maintains he shouldn’t have been allowed to represent himself during the mitigation phase because he wasn’t competent to do so and his waiver of counsel couldn’t have been made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.

Noting that the right of self-representation isn’t absolute, Hundley’s brief indicates that the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to insist that a defendant be represented by an attorney when the defendant is competent to stand trial but suffers from a mental illness that limits the ability to competently navigate trial proceedings alone. Hundley argues that was the situation in this case and his death sentence must be vacated.

The prosecutor points out that Hundley’s lawyers at trial said he was competent, while they discouraged him from representing himself. The trial court explained the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation during the suppression hearing and before the mitigation phase, but Hundley signed a waiver of his right to counsel. The record shows that Hundley fully understood the implications of representing himself when he gave up his right to counsel, the office maintains.

Appropriateness of Trial Court Judge’s Comments Discussed
Hundley describes certain comments from the trial court as “facetious.” For example, when Hundley pressed to represent himself in the trial’s mitigation phase, the judge said, “That's fine. You know what, I will.” and then said, “And when you get convicted of death, I don't want to hear about it.” Hundley argues such remarks are improper, especially in a capital case, and diminish the seriousness of the proceedings.

The prosecutor counters that the judge simply explained to Hundley the likely consequences of his decision. The court’s statements weren’t facetious, and the court didn’t enhance Hundley’s punishment based on its statements, the prosecutor states.

Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Lance Hundley: Rhys Cartwright-Jones, 330.757.6609

Representing the State of Ohio from the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office: Ralph Rivera, 330.740.2330

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Did 18-Month Delay in Trial after Appeal Violate Speedy Trial Rights?

State of Ohio v. John W. Long, Case No. 2019-0181
Second District Court of Appeals (Clark County)


  • After a criminal conviction has been reversed on appeal, does the time calculated for a speedy trial begin on the date the charges are remanded?
  • Does a motion to dismiss alleging a violation of a right to a speedy trial reset the speedy trial time?

Both the offender claiming his rights to a speedy trial were violated and the county prosecutor agree that for the purposes of a speedy trial calculation, the clock starts on the date an appeals court overturns the conviction and remands the case. However, the two parties dispute in this case what the consequences should be if the delay between the remand and the new trial is more than a year.

In February 2015, John Long approached several cars waiting in line at the Ooh Ooh Drive-Thru in Springfield. Brandishing a gun, Long demanded money from the car occupants, and struck two occupants with the gun. Police arrived and Long fled. He was arrested, and police discovered he had an outstanding arrest warrant.

Long was indicted on 10 charges related to the incident, and entered into a plea agreement with Clark County prosecutors. He agreed to plead guilty to three charges and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Long, who was incarcerated from the date of his arrest, appealed his conviction. In March 2016, the Second District Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case, finding that Long was not fully advised of his constitutional rights. Long remained in prison another three months before being transferred to the Clark County jail. In June, Long asked for a trial to be scheduled, which the trial court didn’t set until late September 2016.

A week before his trial, Long requested the case be dismissed because he was denied his right to a speedy trial. He argued it had been 198 days since his case had been remanded. The trial court denied the motion in October 2016. Nothing happened in his case between October 2016 and August 2017, and Long remained in jail. He filed a second motion to dismiss his case on speedy trial grounds, noting another 285 days passed since his first request was denied.

The trial court again declined to dismiss the case, and in September 2017, the court denied Long’s request that the court reconsider its decision. At that time, Long pleaded no contest to two charges, and he was sentenced to five years in jail. The court credited him for time served from the date of his arrest in February 2015 to the date of his plea, awarding him 941 days toward his sentence.

Long appealed his sentence again, arguing that if the trial court considered that he spent nearly 500 days in jail since his case was remanded, it would constitute a violation of his speedy trial rights, and warrant the dismissal of the charges against him. The Second District affirmed the trial court’s decision, and Long appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

Factors Lean toward Finding Speedy Trial Violation, Offender Argues
Long explains that a right to a speedy trial is guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution. In R.C. 2945.71, the state adopted speedy trial procedures that comply with the constitution. The parties note the law requires a defendant to be tried within 90 to 270 days of the arrest, depending on the charges. However, the law doesn’t apply to criminal convictions that have been overturned on appeal, and there is no exact time limit on when to start the second criminal trial, Long reports. Instead, under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1972 Barker v. Wingo decision, the defendant must be brought to trial within a reasonable period of time “consistent with constitutional standards,” he explains.

When a defendant claims that speedy trial rights were violated while awaiting a new trial, the Barker decision requires a weighing of four factors, Long explains. The court considers: (1) the length of delay; (2) the reason for delay; (3) whether the defendant raised his speedy trial rights; and (4) the prejudice caused to the defendant by the delay. Citing additional U.S. and Ohio Supreme Court decisions, Long argues that a delay approaching one year is presumed to be prejudicial to the defendant and is grounds to declare a violation of his speedy trial rights.

Length of Delay Disputed
The parties in the case explain that the Barker test occurs in two steps. If the length of delay approaches a year, then the other three factors are considered. If the length of delay isn’t approaching a year, the analysis ends and the second trial start time is considered to be in compliance with the constitutional right. Long maintains the trial court should have considered the time that had elapsed between when his case was remanded and the starting date of his September 2016 trial, which would have been 483 days.

Both Long and the Clark County prosecutor agree the 483-day delay should have been adopted by the court, and that should have triggered the second part of the Barker test. Long argues that under the first factor, or all factors of the Barker test, the Court should conclude his speedy trial rights were violated. The prosecutor maintains that under all four parts of the test, the Court should rule that Long’s rights weren’t violated.

The Second District disagreed with the parties on the date from which to calculate the length of delay. The appeals court ruled the time should be calculated from the date Long first filed to dismiss the case on grounds of the speed trial violation. The date between that filing and the start of the second trial was 285 days. Because that time isn’t approaching a year, the trial court didn’t have to take any further steps before ruling that Long’s speedy trial rights weren’t violated, the Second District concluded in a 2-1 decision.

Long argues the Second District, without any supporting legal rationale, ruled that his motion to dismiss on grounds of a speedy trial violation “reset” the speedy trial violation clock. The dissenting judge noted the request to dismiss was a tolling event, and he pointed out the court should have only discounted the one-month time span between when Long requested the dismissal and when the court ruled against him.

Long argues the Second District should have considered the consequences of the nearly 18-month delay between the remand and his second trial, and weighed the other three factors in the context of that long delay. Had they correctly considered the delay, the Second District would have found his speedy trial rights were violated and dismissed the charges against him, Long concludes.

Delay Didn’t Harm Offender, Prosecutors Argue
While agreeing with Long that the time clock should start on the date the appeals court overrules the trial court, the prosecutor disagrees with him on the overall impact of the 18-month delay. The office argues the four factors under Barker weigh against a speedy trial violation, and disagrees that the Second District should have “reset” the clock by counting the time.

While the first factor — length of delay — triggers a court to consider all four Barker factors, no one factor is deemed more important than the others, the prosecutors maintain, and all four factors have to be considered in context before deciding if a speedy trial violation occurred.

The prosecutor notes that while the Second District considered the better time to use for Long’s case was the date in which he filed his first motion to dismiss, the appellate court didn’t declare that date was its position for all cases, and the court wasn’t creating a new rule. Whether the clock was reset or paused also doesn’t matter when a second trial is ordered on remand, the office argues, because there is no time frame in Ohio law that requires when the next trial begins. Because the standard is “reasonableness,” the actual amount of time is weighed in context with all the other considerations, and in Long’s case, the delay was justified.

The prosecutor argues that under Barker, Long’s rights weren’t violated. The office notes that the long delay in which no activity took place was the result of negligence by the trial court or the prosecutors, and not an intentional plan to keep Long in jail for an extended period. The prosecutor maintains that negligence only weighs slightly in the defendant’s favor.

Most significantly, Long wasn’t prejudiced by the delay, the prosecutor notes. When considering prejudice, the court must consider three of Long’s interests: (1) preventing oppressive pretrial incarceration; (2) minimizing his anxiety and concern; and (3) limiting the possibility that the delay impaired his defense. The prosecutor acknowledges Long may have incurred more anxiety and concern because of the time in jail, but his time in jail wasn’t oppressive. Prior to his first appeal, Long had expressed a willingness to serve at least three years in prison, and as part of his second plea, agreed to five years, the prosecutor states. Because three years hadn’t elapsed by the time of his second trial, the 18-month delay between the remand and trial didn’t prejudice him, the office concludes.

The delay also didn’t impair Long’s ability to put on a defense, the prosecutor asserts. It didn’t impact any witnesses or evidence in the case because Long pleaded guilty when first charged and there was no trial. Because Long suffered no prejudice, and the other factors don’t weigh in his favor, his speedy trial rights weren’t violated, the prosecutor concludes.

County Waives Oral Argument
While the county prosecutor did submit a written brief, the office opted to waive participation in oral argument.

Dan Trevas

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing John W. Long from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office: Patrick Clark, 614.466.5394

Representing the State of Ohio from the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office: John Lintz, 937.521.1770

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Can Defendant Be Resentenced at End of Prison Term to Correct Mistake at Original Sentencing?

State of Ohio v. Rogers T. Henderson, Case No. 2019-0182
Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County)


  • When the original sentence of imprisonment imposed was less than the minimum sentence required by statute, can the sentence be increased near the end of the prison term?
  • Does R.C. 5145.01 automatically transform a trial court’s definite sentence into the indefinite sentence that is required by law?

Rogers Henderson was arrested on Sept. 22, 1999, and pled guilty in November of that year to one count of murder with a three-year firearm specification.

The sentence for murder under R.C. 2929.02 is an indefinite term of 15 years to life. However, the trial court sentenced Henderson to 15 years in prison plus three years for the firearm specification, to be served consecutively for a total of 18 years. The definite or “flat” 15-year sentence also was recorded in the court’s sentencing entry.

In May 2011, the Bureau of Sentence Computation in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) advised the trial court in a letter that the 15-year sentence wasn’t consistent with state law because murder carried a 15-year-to-life term. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office asked the court in June 2011 to resentence Henderson because the court had omitted the “life tail” in his sentence. The court didn’t take any action in response to the letter or the prosecutor’s motion.

Inmate’s Release Date Approaches
After the trial court granted a request for credit for jail time Henderson had served, the prosecutor filed a motion in September 2017 that noted his upcoming release and disputed the 15-year flat sentence. The court held a hearing on Sept. 20.

A representative from the sentence computation bureau said that with his jail time credit, Henderson’s release date was the next day, Sept. 21. Henderson’s lawyer argued Henderson had been in custody since his Sept. 22, 1999 arrest, so his sentence with the credits had been completed a few days earlier, on Sept. 16. The trial court resentenced Henderson to three years for the firearm offense plus a life term for murder with parole eligibility after he served 15 years of the murder sentence – making him eligible for parole at that time.

Henderson appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals. In addition to granting Henderson additional jail-time credit, the Eighth District stated the trial court imposed a definite sentence of 15 years when the sentence should have been 15 years to life. The court concluded, though, that Henderson was subject to the indefinite sentence under the statute regardless of whether the trial court mistakenly imposed a definite sentence.

Henderson filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court, which accepted the case.

Sentence Was Final, Punishment Can’t Be Increased, Man Argues
Henderson maintains that with his jail-time credit, he had completed his sentence before the Sept. 20 hearing. He argues that the U.S. and Ohio constitutions protect his interest in the finality of his sentence and prevent against a second sentencing to increase his punishment. He points to the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling in State v. Holdcraft (2013), which states, “[O]nce the prison-sanction portion of a sentence for a crime has been fully served, the structure of Ohio felony-sentencing law and the defendant’s legitimate expectation in finality in his sentence prevent a court from further modifying the sentence for that crime in any way.”

Henderson also asserts that the Eighth District misinterprets R.C. 5145.01, which reads:

“If, through oversight or otherwise, a person is sentenced to a state correctional institution under a definite term for an offense for which a definite term of imprisonment is not provided by statute, the sentence shall not thereby become void, but the person shall be subject to the liabilities of such sections and receive the benefits thereof, as if the person had been sentenced in the manner required by this section.”

Interpreting the law to allow the life tail to be automatically added to his sentence would mean the statute violates due process and double jeopardy, Henderson contends. He maintains that such an interpretation also would infringe on separation of powers between the branches of government because the executive branch’s DRC, if following this interpretation of the legislatively enacted R.C. 5145.01, would ignore the sentence imposed by a court, which is the only branch that can issue sentences.

Henderson concludes that his flat sentence can’t be reversed, and he should be released.

Sentence Was Dictated by Statute, Regardless of Court’s Mistake, State Contends
While acknowledging the trial court’s mistake during sentencing, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor notes that before accepting Henderson’s guilty plea, the judge told Henderson: “The murder charge carries with it a penalty of 15 years to life, sir. The firearm specification carries with it a three-year penalty. That will be 18 years to life that you will be serving in prison. Do you understand that sir?”

The prosecutor also maintains that Henderson’s sentence at the time of the Sept. 20 hearing was due to expire the next day, not days earlier as Henderson’s brief states. The additional jail-time credit wasn’t effective until the court ordered it later, in November, the prosecutor states. The office disputes Henderson’s assertion that he had fully served his sentence before Sept. 20.

In addition, the prosecutor explains that trial courts can impose only sentences that are contained in the state’s statutes. The office agrees with the Eighth District that Henderson can’t have an expectation of finality in a sentence if the sentence was contrary to law.

In Holdcraft, the offender completed a valid prison sentence, then the court tried to impose a term of postrelease control for that offense. The prosecutor argues this case is different because Henderson didn’t serve a validly imposed sentence.

The prosecutor contends that the court is allowed to correct the error in this case at a resentencing hearing, and the error falls within R.C. 5145.01 because it was an oversight by the court. The law imposes the correct indefinite sentence of 15 years to life, the prosecutor concludes.

Kathleen Maloney

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Rogers T. Henderson from the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office: John Martin, 216.443.3675

Representing the State of Ohio from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office: Gregory Ochocki, 216.348.4463

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