Friday, September 14, 2018
Ohio is the only state with a postconviction DNA statute that explicitly precludes all pleading defendants from seeking testing. Its statute, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2953.72(C)(2), provides that a defendant is not eligible for postconviction DNA testing “regarding any offense to which the offender pleaded guilty or no contest.”
In State v. Harris, No. 103924, 2016 WL 3570577 (Ohio App., June 30, 2016). Dwayne Harris was charged with a kidnapping and rape in Cleveland, Ohio; he eventually accepted a plea deal pursuant to which he pleaded guilty to rape in exchange for the kidnapping charge being nolled. The plea was essentially an Alford plea, in which a defendant legally pleads guilty but claims he is factually innocent:
The Court: Did you do that?
Harris: I don’t admit it, but I’m guilty.
The Court: Did you have sexual conduct with [the victim]?
Harris: No, I did not.
When Harris subsequently filed an application for postconviction DNA testing, the trial court denied the motion. On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Ohio quickly affirmed this ruling, citing Ohio’s postconviction statute and concluding that “because Harris’s application for DNA testing involved a rape offense to which he pled guilty, he was not an eligible offender as defined by the statute.”