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9th District upholds Medina County juvenile’s murder sentence

Legal News Reporter

Published: May 8, 2020

The 9th District Court of Appeals has affirmed a Medina County judge’s life sentence in the case of a juvenile convicted of killing a 98-year-old woman after breaking into her Wadsworth home.
Gavon Ramsay was 17 when he strangled the sleeping woman. He then abused her corpse before stuffing it into a hall closet. A few weeks later law enforcement found video evidence of the events on Mr. Ramsey’s cell phone while investigating a different matter.
Ramsay, who pleaded no contest to the counts, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being found guilty of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, three counts of felony murder, and one count each of aggravated burglary, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.
On appeal, he claimed the trial court erred by imposing the maximum penalty despite the defense’s “significant and compelling” evidence that the juvenile was capable of being reformed.
The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that “sentencing a child to life without parole is excessive for all but ‘the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption[.]’”
However, the state argued the 9th District does not have the authority to review Ramsay’s sentence.
“Section 2953.08(A) provides, in part, that “a defendant who is convicted of or pleads guilty to a felony may appeal as a matter of right the sentence imposed * * *.” Section 3 2953.08(D)(3), however, provides that ‘[a] sentence imposed for aggravated murder or murder pursuant to sections 2929.02 to 2929.06 of the Revised Code is not subject to review under this section,’ “ 9th District Judge Jennifer Hensal wrote in her 3-0 opinion. “According to the Ohio Supreme Court, ‘R.C. 2953.08(D) is unambiguous.’ (State v. Porterfield, 106 Ohio St.3d 5, 2005-Ohio-3095). The language of Section 2953.08(D)(3) ‘clearly means what it says: such a sentence cannot be reviewed.’
Next, Ramsay attempted to argue the trial court abused its discretion by failing to specifically consider his age as a mitigating factor pursuant to the holding in State v. Long (138 OHIO ST.3D 478, 2014).
“Because Mr. Ramsay’s argument again relates to the sentence the trial court imposed for aggravated murder under Section 2929.03, we conclude that we are without authority to review the merits of his argument,” Hensal wrote.
Finally, Ramsay alleged the trial court committed reversible error in failing to merge the burglary and kidnapping offenses with each other and with the aggravated murder count.
That argument also failed. The panel noted that the Ohio Supreme Court has held that aggravated murder is not an allied offense of similar import to aggravated burglary.
“Accordingly, they do not merge under Section 2941.25 even if they were committed at the same time and with the same animus,” Hensal wrote. “Regarding whether Mr. Ramsay’s conviction for kidnapping should merge with his convictions for aggravated murder or aggravated burglary, we note that Mr. Ramsay failed to make those arguments before the trial court. If a defendant fails to seek the merger of his convictions as allied offenses of similar import in the trial court, he forfeits his allied offenses claim for appellate review.”
Ninth District Judges Donna J. Carr and Julie Schafer concurred.
The case is cited State v. Ramsay, 2020-Ohio-1203.