Local lawyer argues for speedy retrials
The issue argued before the court stems from a Mahoning County case.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK
COLUMBUS -- Defendants who plead no contest are entitled to a speedy retrial when an appellate course deems a retrial is necessary, a Youngstown attorney argued before the Ohio Supreme Court.
According to Atty. James E. Lanzo, the "speedy trial" clock should pause while a no-contest case is being considered by an appellate court, but it should restart once that court remands a case to the trial court for a new trial.
"The General Assembly has not provided for this situation, has it?" questioned Chief Justice Thomas Moyer at Wednesday's hearing. "It anticipates for only the first trial. How do we then make the jump to where you want to be?"
Justice Moyer and other justices questioned the ability of trial courts to keep track of which no-contest cases were vacated and then get a new trial under way before the clock runs out of time.
Justice Moyer said that could mean a court would have only a matter of days to get a new trial under way.
"That's totally unworkable," Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton said of the added responsibility it would place on the trial court.
She added it would force some cases to go to trial just so a judge wouldn't need to worry about a no-contest case being overturned.
Justice Paul Pfeifer questioned how Lanzo's position on the issue would serve the justice system.
"What you're trying to set up is a trap for the prosecution for the state," he said. "I don't see how that serves the interest of justice."
Lanzo denied Justice Pfeifer's claim.
Justice Pfeifer also questioned Rhys B. Cartwright-Jones, who represented the state and the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office, on how that office viewed the matter.
Cartwright-Jones said state statutes do not address remands but added the state Legislature could revisit the issue if it wanted to see a change.
Mahoning County case
The issue stems from a case of an Austintown woman arrested in October 2001 and charged with DUI and with driving with prohibited blood-alcohol content.
After a motion to suppress the results of her breath test was filed and denied by the trial court, Theresa Hull entered a plea of no contest to the prohibited BAC charge and was convicted.
She appealed the denial to suppress the breath test results, and on July 7, 2003, the 7th District Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, vacated her conviction and sent the case back for a new trial.