Yesterday Jeff’s lawyers addressed the issue which the Ohio Supreme Court has invited them to raise, namely that Jeff’s trial court did not have jurisdiction to try him.
The relevant statute in force at the time of the crime of which Jeff was convicted included this portion about homicide:
“In homicide…, the offense is either the act that causes death, or the physical contact that causes death, or the death itself. If any part of the body of a homicide victim is found in this state, the death is presumed to have occurred within this state.”*
At Jeff’s trial the prosecution used witness testimony to convince the jury that the victim was killed not in Ohio, but in Indiana (a map was used by the state to set out its case that the victim’s death occurred in Indiana). The victim’s body was recovered from a wooded area in Indiana. The prosecutor’s closing remarks underlined the state’s point that the victim died in Indiana; an appeal court later further strengthened this point by ruling that the prosecutor’s remarks were no more than a recital of facts.
From this it seems clear that Jeff’s trial should not have been held in Ohio. Although Jeff’s trial lawyer queried whether Hamilton County was an appropriate venue, he failed to question whether the court had jurisdiction to try Jeff. But the point is considered so fundamental that it can never be waived: Jeff is entitled to raise it even now, nearly 25 years after the crime.
If the Ohio Supreme Court agrees with Jeff, the implications are profound:
“If a court acts without jurisdiction, then any proclamation by the court is void.”**
Jeff deserves a new trial where he can raise his claim of innocence. If the court accepts that his trial court lacked jurisdiction, he could get that new trial in Indiana. We hope that he will.
*See Merit Brief of Appellant Jeffrey Wogenstahl, filed August 1, 2016 (P. 13 of whole document).
**See Merit Brief of Appellant Jeffrey Wogenstahl, filed August 1, 2016 (P. 11 of whole document).