According to court documents, the appeal of a 2016 guilty verdict of Kevin Gaffin will be reviewed by a local court. An evidentiary hearing has been scheduled for October 15th in the Adams County Common Pleas Court.
As previously reported in the Informer, the Fourth District Court of Appeals found errors in the conviction of Kevin Gaffin, who was found guilty of three counts of child rape and felonious assault in 2016. Adams County Common Pleas Judge Brett Spencer recused himself and Judge Rocky Cross, a visiting judge at the Adams County Common Pleas Court sentenced Gaffin to life without parole for each count of rape. In addition, Gaffin received eight years for the felonious assault.
In his appeal, Gaffin argued that the Adams County Common Pleas Court violated his right to due process under the Ohio and United States’ Constitution when it dismissed his post-conviction petition without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Gaffin argues that he produced sufficient credible evidence to demonstrate that he was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. According to Gaffin, the information contained in affidavits, when considered with the full record, establish a deficiency in his trial counsel’s performance that led to an unjust result at trial. Gaffin argues his legal representation did not call upon or interview witnesses that with their testimony could have led to a different outcome. Gaffin’s attorney during his 2016 trial was attorney Aaron Haslam. Haslam is now in private practice but previously served as Adams County Prosecuting Attorney.
The State alleged that trial counsel’s performance did not fall below an objective standard of reasonableness. The state also argued that Gaffin was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing because he failed to demonstrate prejudice as a result of his trial counsel’s alleged deficiencies.
In her opinion, the Fourth District Court of Appeals Judge Marie Hoover wrote, “After reviewing the evidence, we find that Gaffin established that he received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel. First, Gaffin showed that his trial counsel’s performance fell below an objective level of reasonable representation. Although trial counsel’s decision not to call a witness may be considered trial strategy. Gaffin’s trial counsel not only failed to call a majority of the witnesses he subpoenaed, the affidavits show that he failed to interview at nearly ten of those individuals.”
Hoover goes on to say, “Second, in light of the admissible evidence Gaffin provided, we find that there is a reasonable probability that the jury would have returned a different verdict. Had the jury heard the witnesses’ testimony, especially that of the two officers from the Manchester Police Department, it is reasonably likely that the outcome of the trial would have been different. Because Gaffin provided sufficient evidence in his petition for post-conviction relief to satisfy both prongs of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, we find that any rational trial court would have found substantive grounds for relief existed and granted an evidentiary hearing. Therefore, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Gaffin’s post-conviction relief petition without a hearing.”
A part of the Court of Appeals opinion outlines the two police officers mentioned in court documents, Jeff Bowling, former Manchester Chief of Police and Jason Mallott former Manchester Police Officer were both witnesses in the cases but did not speak in front of the jury. According to court documents, Jeff Bowling responded to the victim’s mother’s home around the fall of 2014 because the victim went missing. According to Bowling, he later found the victim with Gaffin. According to Bowling, the victim stated he wanted to stay with Gaffin. Jason Mallot also responded to a domestic violence call at the victim’s mother’s home in 2012 and Mallot stated that the victim’s mother was intoxicated and said that she stated she would do whatever it took to get Gaffin arrested. Both former Police Officers testimony was not heard in front of a jury because it was found inadmissible.
The Appeals Court did not find error in the the argument that the Adams County Pleas Court violated Gaffin’s right to to due process under the Ohio and United States’ Constitutions when it, without any contradictory evidence from the State, dismissed Mr. Gaffin’s affidavit as self-serving and not credible.
In January, the Fourth District Court of Appeals ordered the Adams County Common Pleas Court to conduct an evidentiary hearing on Gaffin’s petition for post-conviction relief consistent with this opinion.