Jurisdiction Ruling: a Reassuring Footnote

A Sixth Circuit court has denied[i] Jeffrey Wogenstahl the opportunity to make a separate appeal to establish whether Ohio had jurisdiction to try him.

Jeff wanted to appeal an Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling[ii] from 2017. In that ruling the majority judges decided that “it cannot be determined whether Amber was murdered in Ohio or Indiana” so “the offense is conclusively presumed to have taken place in Ohio” [emphasis added]. It was this presumption that resulted in the ruling that Ohio had jurisdiction to conduct Jeff’s trial.*

Jeff argued that instead of presuming that it had jurisdiction, Ohio should have been required to prove this.[iii]

He further explained that the Ohio Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling constituted a new state court direct appeal judgment, warranting further appeals; and that there is no time barrier to raising such questions of jurisdiction.[iv]

The Sixth Circuit court disagrees, thus preventing Jeff from pursuing his jurisdiction arguments separately.

A footnote to the ruling is reassuring. It indicates that this decision will not impact the issue of jurisdiction referenced in Jeff’s main ongoing litigation [his claim of innocence]. †

So Jeff can continue this fight. We wish him the greatest success. He deserves no less.

*Chef Justice O’Connor wrote a dissent, declaring,
“[F]ailing to ensure that this state has jurisdiction in such a case is a tremendous error and is a disservice to the citizens of Ohio and the victims of violent crime… [T]he state of Ohio had no jurisdiction to try Wogenstahl for murder. His aggravated-murder conviction is void and should be vacated, and Wogenstahl should be tried in Indiana for the murder.”
†The footnote reads: 1 That said, we acknowledge that Wogenstahl has raised certain claims related to subject-matter jurisdiction in state post-conviction court, where Wogenstahl is now proceeding in light of the successive petition we authorized last year. See App. R. 9 at 9 n.2 (noting “claims Fifty-Two through Fifty-Five” of Wogenstahl’s “[p]ending . . . second Post-conviction petition before the Honorable Judge Dinkelacker of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas”); see also 17-cv-298, R.36-2 (Second State Post-Conviction Petition) (Page ID #1675–86). Today’s ruling should in no way be taken as opining on the merits of those still-pending claims.”
[i] In re: Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Movant. No. 19-4024, Order. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, May 12, 2020.
[ii] Slip Opinion No. 2017 Ohio 6873, The State of Ohio, Appellee v. Wogenstahl, Appellant (No. 1995-0042—Submitted April 4, 2017—Decided July 25, 2017.) REOPENED APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Hamilton County, No. C-930222.
[iii] State of Ohio, Plaintiff v. Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Defendant. Case No. 1995-0042, Defendant’s Motion to Reopen his Direct Appeal to Challenge the Constitutionality of Ohio Revised Code §2901.11(D) as Written in 1991. In the Supreme Court of Ohio, August 10, 2018.
[iv] In re: Jeffrey Wogenstahl, Movant. No. 19-4024, Reply to Warden’s Memorandum in Opposition to Wogenstahl’s Corrected Original Petition and Motion to Transfer Case to Federal District Court as Initial Habeas Petition. In the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, November 14, 2019.
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