Top court to hear rape appeal

Staff report


The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a man who appealed his conviction on rape and other charges on the basis that his constitutional right to confront witnesses against him was violated during his trial in Mahoning County.

Sammie Smith Jr., 44, was sentenced to 80 years in prison after he was convicted of rape, kidnapping, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery with repeat violent- offender specifications in an October 2003 home invasion on the city’s South Side.

Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court imposed the sentence in February 2011 after a jury convicted Smith.

“The trial court permitted ‘expert’ testimony regarding DNA evidence, when those who testified did not conduct the testing. The result was a denial of appellant’s confrontation clause rights and a denial of due process,” Smith said in his appeal.

Smith contends the alleged trial error violated the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

There were no suspects identified until 2008, when police matched a sample of DNA taken from Smith with DNA found at the crime scene.

At his sentencing hearing, Smith said he was “sorry for what happened” but denied being the assailant.

The repeat violent- offender specifications pertain to Smith’s 1986 kidnapping, rape and aggravated-robbery convictions, for which he was sentenced to nine to 25 years in prison.

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