The case is State v. Wine, No. 2014-Ohio-3948.
The Ohio Supreme Court has held that a defendant who presents an “all or nothing” defense in a criminal trial does not have the right to prevent a trial court from giving lesser-included-offense jury instructions.
In this case, the defendant had been charged with rape based on the allegation made by his mother-in-law that the defendant had inserted his finger into her while she was sleeping. She testified at trial that she had fallen asleep with one of the children after getting in bed with him to tell him a story. She awoke and saw the Defendant kneeling down at the side of the bed with his face very close to hers.
The Defendant told the police that he remembered being in bed with his mother-in-law. He told the interviewer that he may have touched his mother-in-law. He also stated, “I may have touched her, I mean I almost think I did. But the truth is I thought it was my wife.”
In a later interview he told the police said that it was possible that something had happened, but that he had no memory of it and no memory of ever touching his mother-in-law inappropriately.
At trial, he testified that he was never in the room that the alleged victim was in on the night in question and that he did not lay his hands on her in any way. The court explained: “The defense was thus unequivocal—[The Defendant] was never in the room on the night in question and there could be no gradations on what might have occurred.”
The trial court decided to instruct the jury on the lesser included offenses of of sexual battery under R.C. 2907.03(A)(1) and gross sexual imposition under R.C. 2907.05(A)(1).
In Ohio, the law permits a jury to find a the defendant not guilty of the crime charged but guilty of an inferior or lesser included offense. The court explained:
This rule originally developed as an aid to the prosecution in cases in which the proof failed to establish some element of the crime charged. But it has long been recognized that it can also be beneficial to the defendant because it affords the jury a less drastic alternative than the choice between conviction of the offense charged and acquittal.
The concern, however, is that jury could reach a “compromise” verdict, therby convicting a defendant of an offense even when there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order to have a “clear conscience.”
The court established the following rule: “If the evidence adduced on behalf of the defense is such that if accepted by the trier of fact it would constitute a complete defense to all substantive elements of the crime charged, the trier of fact will not be permitted to consider a lesser included offense unless the trier of fact could reasonably find against the state and for the accused upon one or more of the elements of the crime charged, and for the state and against the accused on the remaining elements, which, by themselves, would sustain a conviction upon a lesser included offense.”
In regards to an “all or nothing defense, thc court explained why the jury should stuill be permitted to consider lesser included offenses:
Whether or not a defendant raises a complete defense to the charged crime, the state has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements of the crime charged. The fact that the evidence could be interpreted by the jury as questionable on a single element does not mean that the defendant committed no crime. Simply put, a jury can both reject an all-or-nothing defense—e.g., alibi, mistaken identity, or self-defense—and find that the state has failed to meet its evidentiary burden on an element of the charged crime. In such a case, “if due to some ambiguity in the state’s version of the events involved in a case the jury could have a reasonable doubt regarding the presence of an element required to prove the greater but not the lesser offense, an instruction on the lesser included offense is ordinarily warranted.” Solomon, 66 Ohio St.2d at 221, 421 N.E.2d 139.
Based on this reasoning, the conviction of the defendant was upheld.