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Ohio DNA Testing Provisions Allow Relevancy Determination Prior To Requiring Mitigative Submission

The Ohio State Court of Appeals reversed the denial of DNA testing requests by prisoner Paul Buehler concerning his 1985 murder conviction but certified a conflict of statutory authority to the Supreme Court. The denial was reinstated because the DNA results would not have been outcome determinative.

Buehler and then roommate Rodney Hedrick rented rooms from Joan O'Brien in 1985. An argument ensued and O'Brien was beat to death with a rubber mallet. Hedrick testified that Buehler delivered the fatal blows but Buehler denied involvement. Buehler requested DNA testing in 1998 to establish that Hedrick's DNA would have been found in the samples acquired from O'Brien's fingernails and not his. He appealed, upon denial claiming testing entitlement under R.C. 2953.73. The Appellate Court reversed the denial in 2005 ruling that R.C. 2953.74© mandated the testing but requested Supreme Court intervention because R.C. 2953.74(B)(1) and (B)(2), if read sequentially, required outcome determinative consideration prior to adherence to R.C. 2953.74(c).

The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that the legislative intent allowed for the trial's discretion and that, due to collective evidence, DNA results would not have prevented a reasonable fact finder from reaching a guilty verdict. The dissent would not have determined legislative intent to require the sequential interpretation. See: State v. Buehler, 113 Ohio St.3d 114, 863 N.E.2d 124 (Ohio 2007).

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Related legal case

State v. Buehler