Corpus Delicti


Franklin County Criminal Law Casebook

Reproduced with permission from:
Timothy E. Pierce and the Franklin County Public Defender Office
State v. Puckett, 191 Ohio App. 3d 747, 2010-Ohio-6597 – Grandfather received life without parole for digital contact with his three-year old granddaughter. Two counts were dismissed as the confession related to a single incident. Court finds corpus delicti was established, based on “the fact of information” that the child’s seven year old brother said something to their mother which led the mother to take the child to a hospital where she was examined for sexual abuse. Also, the defendant told his son he wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the resemblance of the child to his late wife.
State v. Barker, 191 Ohio App. 3d 293, 2010-Ohio-5744 – Defendant claimed he last saw his fiancé outside a bar where she returned the engagement ring and left in a car with another man. In the ensuing three years she hadn’t been seen, didn’t contact her mother or her children, or access her bank account. This was sufficient to establish corpus delicti.
State v. Gabriel, 170 Ohio App. 3d 393, 2007-Ohio-794 -- Defendant confessed to striking missing nine year old and burying her body. While the fact a person is missing by itself is not enough to establish corpus delicti, testimony as to the circumstances surrounding her disappearance is deemed sufficient for admissions to come in. See dissent.
State v. Szewcyk, Seneca App. No. 13-03-01, 2003-Ohio-2901 -- Trucker was stopped because his semi matched the description of one sought by another officer following a report that a truck had struck a road closed sign. Driver admitted backing into the sign while trying to turn around and was charged with driving on a closed road. By only offering the extrajudicial confession, the state failed to prove corpus delicti.
In re Amos, Crawford App. No. 3-04-07, 2004-Ohio-7037 -- Issues were proof of corpus delicti and whether conduct of a nine-year old was criminal. At ¶17: "The State's failure to present any admissible or probative evidence to corroborate K.A.'s statement that he engaged in a sexual act with the victim is compounded by our concerns regarding the characterization of the nature of the sexual act between these two children. Therefore, after reviewing the record and weighing the evidence in this case, we must conclude that the weight of the evidence does not support the trial court's adjudication on the charge of gross sexual imposition"
State v. Maranda (1916), 94 Ohio St. 364 -- Paragraph two of the syllabus: "...(T)here must be some evidence outside of a confession, tending to establish the corpus delicti, before such confession is admissible. The quantum or weight of such outside or extraneous evidence is not of itself to be equal to proof beyond a reasonable doubt, nor even enough to make it a prima facie case. It is sufficient if there is some evidence outside of the confession that tends to prove some material element of the crime charged." Compare Smith v. United States (1954), 348 U.S. 147.
State v. Edwards (1976), 49 Ohio St. 2d 31 -- Corpus delicti includes (1) the act and (2) the criminal agency of the act. Syllabus also repeats essentials of State v. Maranda. Also see State v. Black (1978), 54 Ohio St. 2d 304.
State v. Ralston (1979), 67 Ohio App. 2d 81, 83 -- Corpus delicti must established before confession is admitted. Paragraph 1 of the syllabus to State v. Edwards (1976), 49 Ohio St. 2d 31 applied; State v. Duerr (1982), 8 Ohio App. 3d 396, 398-399.
State v. Van Hook (1988), 39 Ohio St. 3d 256, 261 -- When the offense is homicide, the corpus delicti involves two elements: (1) the fact of death and (2) the criminal agency of another as the cause of death. Also see State v. Manago (1974), 38 Ohio St. 2d 223, 226-227. State v. Austin (1977), 52 Ohio App. 2d 59, 65-66.
State v. Nicely (1988), 39 Ohio St. 3d 147 -- Circumstantial evidence may be used to establish corpus delicti, even when a body has not been recovered.
State v. Nobles (1995), 106 Ohio App. 3d 246 -- (1) At 261-267: Defendant's spurious reports of abduction, abandonment and other attempts at concealing that she had drowned her son were sufficient to establish corpus delicti allowing introduction of her confession. Accounts of these acts said not to be in the nature of admissions or confessions, but instead condemned the defendant by their variety and falsity. Though body was not recovered, same matters said to establish corpus delicti for additional charge of gross abuse of a corpse. Compare State v. Smith (1996), 115 Ohio App. 3d 419, dissenting opinion. (2) At 272-272: Defense counsel elected not to cross-examine 16 witnesses, based on a Hamilton County case stating doing so waived right to mount corpus delicti challenge. Though the court tends to agree with a Franklin County case finding it contrary to common sense to force election between cross and waiver of challenge to testimony of a witness, it was not ineffective assistance of counsel to skip cross-examination on such basis.
State v. Haynes (1998), 130 Ohio App. 3d 31 -- Defendant charged with negligent homicide was also charged with tampering with evidence, having admitted he removed a shotgun shell from the area where a hunter had been shot after wandering onto defendant's property. Reversed as plain error since had been no proof of corpus delicti. Mention officers were looking for shell and projectile was not enough.
State v. Russell, 182 Ohio App. 3d 91, 2009-Ohio-1747 – The corpus delicti of a crime involving the sexual abuse of children exists when an employee of a children services agency has knowledge of both the act and its criminal nature. Here this happened when he defendant made a confession to a police officer and a caseworker. An indictment was returned 23 years later, by which time the statute of limitations had run. Time was not tolled because the defendant had left the state to avoid prosecution because there was no prosecution for him to avoid until the indictment was filed.
State v. Hughes (1994), 92 Ohio App. 3d 26 -- With respect to child victims of sex abuse who are now past the age of majority, the statute of limitations does not begin to run only after the prosecutor or other law enforcement authorities discover the corpus delicti. Unless a victim past the age of majority is shown not to have recognized the unlawful nature of the act, time runs from attaining the age of majority.
State v. Mitchell (1992), 78 Ohio App. 3d 613 -- Court concludes that provision in R.C. 2901.13(B) allowing one year after the discovery of the offense for prosecution to commence in certain cases takes precedence over subdivision (F) which states that the period of limitation does not run during any period when the corpus delicti of the crime remains undiscovered.
State v. McLaughlin (1996), 109 Ohio App. 3d 868 -- In 1989 police officer saw municipal employee pumping gasoline contaminated water into a ditch, but did not press charges. Pollution charges relating to 1989 were filed in 1993 after land nearby exploded. Two year statute of limitations was exceeded. Officer's observations amounted to discovery of corpus delicti.

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Published by Timothy E. Pierce
Copyright © Franklin County Public Defender and Timothy E. Pierce, 2015
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