A Hamilton County case on the enforceability of plea agreements threatens to undermine the entire system of plea bargains in Ohio courts.
The case is State v. Gilbert, 2013-Ohio-238.
The Defendant was convicted of murder and related weapons offenses in 2011.
In May 2010, the Defendant entering into a detailed plea agreement with the prosecutor. The Defendant agreed to enter pleas of guilty to reduced charges in exchange for an agreement to testify truthfully in a case against his father.
A year later, the prosecutor moved to vacate the plea and sentence. The prosecutor allged that the Defendant had not provided truthful testimony. The trial court vacated the original sentence and imposed a new sentence of 18 years to life in prison.
The court of appeals vacated the new sentence. The court noted that “Generally, Ohio trial courts lack the authority to reconsider their own valid final judgments in criminal cases.” The few exceptions include clerical errors and to decide motions to withdraw a plea or consider newly discovered evidence. There are also limited excpetions for habeas corpus and post-conviction relief proceedings.
None of the exceptions applied in this case.