breaking news

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty in Mueller investigation

Man convicted in local murder fights ‘cruel and unusual’ court costs


Convicted murderer James L. Dunson makes about $40 a month at his state prison job — money that he’d like to spend on medical co-pays, deodorant and other personal items — but every cent of it is garnished by Montgomery County to whittle down the bill for his court costs.

Dunson is arguing in court that the garnishment is cruel and unusual punishment, prohibited by the Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law agree with Dunson and are lending him support in his case before the Ohio Supreme Court.

RELATED: Chief justice to Ohio judges: Courts aren’t ATMs to collect fees

The trio of civil rights groups filed an amicus brief in the case this week and cited a recent letter from Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor sent to judges statewide last month, reminding them that “courts are centers for justice, not automatic teller machines whose purpose is to generate revenue for governments, including themselves.”

“It would violate the U.S. Constitution to require indigent criminal defendants who exercise their right to trial to pay court costs they cannot afford,” the ACLU and others said in their supporting brief filed in Dunson’s appeal.

Prisoners earn between 21 cents and $1.23 an hour.

RELATED: Third defendant in 2012 Riverside slaying sentenced to prison

Dunson and his legal team want the Ohio Supreme Court to uphold a 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling that trial courts must evaluate a defendant’s ability to pay before assessing court costs. Mongtomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck appealed that decision to the supreme court, arguing that there is no law requiring a trial court to consider an inmate’s ability to pay court costs. Heck also argues that inmates can apply for waivers from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to exempt them from garnishment.

RELATED: New death date set for man after state halted his execution

Dunson, now 27, has been serving a 18-years to life sentence since his 2013 conviction in Montgomery County in June 2012 murder of Geoffrey Andrews in Riverside. Dunson and another man waited in a getaway car. Dunson is being held at Warren Correctional Institution.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

Girl gives teacher her 75 cents in ice cream money to help with family funeral
Girl gives teacher her 75 cents in ice cream money to help with family funeral

A kind-hearted gesture by an Alabama sixth-grader has gone viral after the girl gave up her ice cream money -- 75 cents -- to help fund the funeral for her teacher’s father-in-law. Price Lawrence, an English teacher at Highlands Elementary School in Huntsville, posted about the moment Tuesday on Facebook. He said that his first period...
Teen accused in Springfield school threat makes court appearance
Teen accused in Springfield school threat makes court appearance

The Springfield High School student charged in connection with a school threat that caused local schools and schools across the country to take safety precautions Thursday will not be charged as an adult. Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson said in a statement the juvenile court system can handle incidents like these. “On Feb. 23 a delinquency...
Gov. John Kasich forms group to tackle gun violence in Ohio
Gov. John Kasich forms group to tackle gun violence in Ohio

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he is hoping that a group he’s convened to find solutions to gun violence in the state will be able to deliver something by the end of business next week to the Ohio General Assembly. Kasich, in Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the National Governors Association, declined to lay out what the group is considering, but...
K99.1FM named finalist for national radio award
K99.1FM named finalist for national radio award

K99.1FM has been recognized for its commitment to the community. The National Association of Broadcasters announced the finalists for the 31st Annual Crystal awards and WHKO-FM (K99.1FM) in Dayton was selected. The award recognizes radio stations for their outstanding year-round commitment to community service. Ten winners will be selected from the...
Florida Gov. Rick Scott calls for reform to state's gun laws, increase in school security
Florida Gov. Rick Scott calls for reform to state's gun laws, increase in school security

In the wake of  mass shooting at a Florida high school, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday proposed a three-point plan to prevent gun violence that includes banning the sale of firearms to anyone younger than 21. The announcement comes more than one week after deputies said Nikolas Cruz, 19, returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after being...
More Stories