Supreme Court Rules Murder Conviction Unconstitutional

Toneisha Gunnell was convicted of murder after a car she was riding in hit and killed a man while fleeing security guards after shoplifting from a Springfield mall.(Photo: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction)
Toneisha Gunnell was convicted of murder after a car she was riding in hit and killed a man while fleeing security guards after shoplifting from a Springfield mall.(Photo: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction)

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that the retrial and murder conviction of a Columbus woman was unconstitutional.

In 2005, Toneisha Gunnell and three other women were convicted of murder after they hit and killed a man while fleeing security guards after shoplifting from a Springfield mall.
Gunnell’s conviction was overturned over an error in jury selection.

In her second trial a judge declared a mistrial after a juror admitted researching legal terms online. In a third trial in 2009, Gunnell was convicted on murder and other charges.

Then a year later, the 2nd District Court of Appeals overturned her conviction, ruling that it amounted to double jeopardy.

On Thursday, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the appeals court ruling. In a rare 4-3 ruling, the Supreme Court declared the judge erred in declaring a mistrial in Gunnell’s second trial.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a court can only override a defendant’s objection to a mistrial, as Gunnell had done, if it’s absolutely necessary. O’Connor wrote that the judge speculated about the juror’s intent and did not establish whether the research created bias.

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