MANSLAUGHTER CASE Woman is sentenced, files appeal
Denielle Kramer is seeking to recant her guilty plea in a shooting death that followed a traffic accident.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A panel of appellate judges will decide whether Danielle Kramer goes to prison for pleading guilty to killing a woman, or gets to go to trial.
Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court denied Kramer's request to withdraw her guilty plea to a charge of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced her to 10 years in prison.
"I'm a firm believer that all of us in life have decisions to make and we have to live with the consequences of those decisions," Judge Krichbaum said.
Defense attorney Don L. Hanni Jr. immediately filed an appeal with the 7th District Court of Appeals. Judge Krichbaum granted a 30-day stay of the prison sentence pending the appeal.
The case so far: Kramer, 28, of Parnell Street, Austintown, pleaded guilty in March and was to have been sentenced last week. In the meantime, she changed her mind and said she wanted to recant the plea and go to trial.
She shot and killed 25-year-old Charise Harmon of Palmer Street during a fight that followed a traffic accident near F & amp;N Market on Shehy Street last summer.
Under Ohio law, once a defendant pleads guilty, only the judge can grant permission to rescind the plea. The appellate court ruled twice last year that defendants who pleaded guilty then change their mind before sentencing should usually be permitted to withdraw the plea.
The court of appeals said if there is a possible defense for taking the case to trial, the plea should be withdrawn. Hanni said there is a "very plausible, possible" case for self-defense.
Response: But Judge Krichbaum said the possible defense is outweighed by other factors, including that Kramer had a full and fair plea hearing and that prosecutors are having difficulty rounding up witnesses for a trial.
Patrick R. Pochiro, assistant prosecutor, said he released the witnesses after the plea, thinking they were no longer needed. Investigators have located two of them, but they have been hostile and reluctant to participate.
Hanni said prosecutors should not release witnesses from their subpoenas until after the defendant is sentenced, since that's technically the end of the case. Judge Krichbaum disagreed with that, though, and said witnesses should be released after a plea.
"Prosecutors should not have to keep witnesses under subpoena after a plea just in case a defendant changes his mind. I just can't swallow that," the judge said.