The Ohio Supreme Court recently made a ruling in the matter of kidnapping cases. Now when considering the seriousness of the offense the jury can now take into account both physical and psychological damage to the victim.

Ohio’s kidnapping law now reduces the level of the offense from a first to a second degree felony if the victim is left in a “safe place unharmed.” Although the Eighth District Court of Appeals ordered that it should solely be physical harm considered for the purpose of reduction, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.

The matter of this ruling proved to be immensely crucial in the reinstatement of the case of taxi driver Shuaib Haji Mohamed. Who was charged with first-degree kidnapping as well as single counts of gross sexual imposition, and attempted rape when he inappropriately made advances toward a woman to whom he was giving a ride.

He was found guilty on all counts and the trial court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, 10 of which stemmed from the kidnapping charges. The Eighth District Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Mohamed based on his trial counsel’s failure to instruct the jury of code R.C. 2905.01(C)(1). Which makes kidnapping a first-degree felony, but reduces it to second-degree if the offender “releases the victim in a safe place unharmed.”

In reaching this conclusion the appellate court reasoned that harm, for purposes of the reduction was limited to physical harm. They reasoned in this case there was no evidence that the victim experienced physical harm.

Writing for the Supreme Court majority, Justice R. Patrick DeWine stated that the statute should read to take into consideration both physical and psychological damage.

Psychological Damage Can Be Considered in Kidnapping Ruling and Sentence

The court ended up rejecting Mohamed’s claim that he received ineffective counsel, they also rejected his claim that the court’s failure to provide instruction was plain error.

As Justice O’Neill brought out in his dissent to the majority’s decision, “the Eighth District did not find Mohamed released J.K. (victim) in a safe place unharmed.” He wrote that he agreed with the majority that the law includes psychological harm, and determining if J.K. (victim) was left unharmed is a factual issue, but that it should be decided by a jury and not the Court justices.

Though the exact application of code R.C. 2905.01(C)(1) leaves a lot up to interpretation, I have no doubt that it will fulfill its intended purpose. Which is to come down hardest on those who harm their kidnapped victims and also made to be an incentive to keep said victims safe.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be sure to update further on the application of code R.C. 2905.01(C)(1) in our court system.