Now There Are Some Sentences for You

State v. Willan (Ohio June 12, 2013) involves statutory construction; the court rules, 4-3, that the statute under which defendant was convicted unambiguously applies to defendant, but the dissent argues that the statute is ambiguous and that defendant should prevail because of the Rule of Lenity. The statute reads as follows:

Except when an offender commits a violation of section 2903.01 or 2907.02 of the Revised Code and the penalty imposed for the violation is life imprisonment or commits a violation of section 2903.02 of the Revised Code, if the offender commits a violation of section 2925.03 or 2925.11 of the Revised Code and that section classifies the offender as a major drug offender and requires the imposition of a ten-year prison term on the offender, if the offender commits a felony violation of section 2925.02, 2925.04, 2925.05, 2925.36, 3719.07, 3719.08, 3719.16, 3719.161, 4729.37, or 4729.61, division (C) or (D) of section 3719.172, division (C) of section 4729.51, or division (J) of section 4729.54 of the Revised Code that includes the sale, offer to sell, or possession of a schedule I or II controlled substance, with the exception of marihuana, and the court imposing sentence upon the offender finds that the offender is guilty of a specification of the type described in section 2941.1410 of the Revised Code charging that the offender is a major drug offender, if the court imposing sentence upon an offender for a felony finds that the offender is guilty of corrupt activity with the most serious offense in the pattern of corrupt activity being a felony of the first degree, or if the offender is guilty of an attempted violation of section 2907.02 of the Revised Code and, had the offender completed the violation of section 2907.02 of the Revised Code that was attempted, the offender would have been subject to a sentence of life imprisonment or life imprisonment without parole for the violation of section 2907.02 of the Revised Code, the court shall impose upon the offender for the felony violation a ten-year prison term that cannot be reduced pursuant to section 2929.20 or Chapter 2967. or 5120. of the Revised Code.

Acting Chief Justice Pfeifer’s dissent reads, in its entirety:

I join Justice Lanzinger’s well-reasoned dissent, but write separately to highlight the General Assembly’s failure in legislative drafting exemplified by former R.C. 2929.14(D)(3), which the majority opinion relegates to a footnote to fully accommodate its 24 lines of unrelenting abstruseness consisting, remarkably, of the sum total of 307 words and a mere one period, a punctuation mark set out as a lone sentinel facing odds similar to that of the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae, a battle that occurred over the course of three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece, and is estimated by historians to have occurred in either August or September, or perhaps both, in 480 B.C., pitting an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, against the Persian Empire of Xerxes I, bravely standing before the onslaught of invaders but ultimately unable to stanch the unrelenting tide of the overpowering hordes of words and statutory numbers including R.C. 2903.01, 2907.02, 2903.02, 2925.04, 2925.11, 2925.02, 2925.06, 2925.36, 3719.07, 3719.08, 3719.16, 3719.161, 4729.37, 4729.61, 3719.172, 4729.51, 4729.54, 2941.1410, 2929.20, without so much as a helping hand from a single, solitary semicolon, colon, or parenthesis, other than the parentheses surrounding the capital letters denoting the divisions of statutory sections that are sprinkled throughout the statute, a statute that purports to inform the citizenry of the potential penalty for certain enumerated criminal acts, but by cramming so many words about sentencing into one sentence, sentences itself to uselessness, especially in the case of an offender involved in a pattern of corrupt activity, regarding which R.C. 2929.14(D)(3) surprisingly is completely without specificity, in that it fails to cite a statutory section outlining what constitutes corrupt activity when it otherwise lists specific statutory sections relating to all the other offenses to which it applies, a statutory circumstance up with which we should not put.