Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Supreme Court won't hear case
By Margie Wuebker
The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected an appeal filed on behalf of a 23-year-old Chickasaw man serving a 24-year prison sentence in the wake of a March 2008 traffic accident that claimed four lives.
Attorneys for Nicholas Schwieterman, who is currently incarcerated at the Toledo Correctional Institution, filed an appeal in July seeking to have the sentence overturned on the basis it represents cruel and unusual punishment.
The decision to decline jurisdiction and dismiss the appeal came at 9 a.m. today when court officials released a daily summary of action on docketed items. The tersely worded decision comes with no additional comments, although information on the high court's automated notification system indicates possible comments could come within one business day.
Columbus attorney Eric Allen, who serves as co-counsel along with his father-in-law John Poppe of Wapakoneta, filed the appeal with the Supreme Court after the Third District Court of Appeals rejected a similar motion in May.
"A loss of life is always a tragedy and the young men who lost their lives in this case are no exception," Allen stated in the Supreme Court filing. "However, given the prior instances in the Third District involving drinking and fatal accidents, this sentence if disproportional."
The Columbus attorney cited two area drinking and driving cases where men - one from Celina and the other from Van Wert - convicted of killing multiple victims received lesser sentences.
Allen claimed Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham overlooked mitigating factors, including the defendant's remorse, before handing down the sentence.
"No one would argue this offense doesn't require a stiff sentence," Allen stated. "A sentence which truly punishes is necessary, not one which demoralizes and throws the appellant on the rubbish heap of humanity for the period of his young adulthood."
The attorney further argued the 24-year sentence would not stop others from drinking, using drugs and driving. He maintains "an overly harsh sentence" serves only to foster contempt for the law and does not promote respect.
Schwieterman pleaded no contest last fall to four counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count each of possessing drugs and operating a vehicle while under the influence. As part of the negotiated agreement, the state dismissed all remaining charges in the 16-count indictment. Conviction on all counts could have resulted in a sentence of more than 40 years.
He was under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana at the time of the March 15 accident that claimed the lives of Jordan Moeller, Jordan Diller, Jordan Goettemoeller and Bradley Roeckner.
Allen and Poppe also have another motion filed with the Third District appeals court seeking a hearing to introduce new evidence in the case showing the accident did not happen the way authorities believe. Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox was to file his response in that case this week.