GRANT CASE Judge denies request
The matter had been pending since 1997.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A judge has denied Rosalie Grant's request to vacate her 1983 conviction for killing her two small sons by torching her house.
The ruling comes four years after the request was made in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Grant, 41, is serving a life sentence for aggravated murder and aggravated arson. Authorities said she burned the house to collect the boys' life insurance money. They were trapped in a bedroom and unable to escape.
Grant was originally sentenced to the death penalty, but former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste commuted her death sentence in 1991.
Hers was among seven cases in which Celeste changed death sentences to life imprisonment shortly before he left office.
In 1997, attorneys for Grant filed a motion for post-conviction relief, citing 35 instances in which she claimed her constitutional rights were violated during the original trial.
Delay: Prosecutors filed a response in March 1997, saying that Grant had failed to provide sufficient evidence to document her claims and asking the judge to rule against Grant without a hearing.
The matter then sat dormant until last week, when Judge Robert G. Lisotto of common pleas court handed down his ruling against Grant.
His 24-page entry says that all the points raised by Grant's lawyers had previously been addressed by the 7th District Court of Appeals.
Judge Lisotto said he didn't realize a written ruling was never made until he was contacted recently by Prosecutor Paul Gains, who called it to his attention.
Gains said he'd also forgotten about the case until recently. He could not recall what prompted him to check on it. He looked at the docket and realized a decision had never been made. The long delay is not extraordinary for this type of case, he said.
"There are a lot of complicated issues of law," he said, noting that Grant's request for post-conviction relief was voluminous and required extensive legal research.
Gains and Judge Lisotto said one reason for the long lag could have been confusion that arose when Grant's attorney withdrew from the case in 1998.
Another reason, Gains said, is the ever-increasing caseload for five common pleas judges.