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Supreme Court: Judges needn’t consider ability to pay costs

Posted at 8:07 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 20:07:30-04

COLUMBUS — Ohio trial court judges do not have to consider whether defendants have the ability to pay for the cost of their prosecutions now or in the future, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court in a 5-2 vote said judges already have broad discretion to waive, suspend or modify court costs that are required by state law.

Justices heard the case on appeal from the Second District Court of Appeals in Dayton, which in a 2-1 ruling said state law requires trial court judges to consider a defendant’s ability to pay.

The case originated in Montgomery County, where in 2013 Darren Taylor, now 55, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 36 years in prison for the deaths of a store clerk and an accomplice during an attempted pawn shop robbery.

The Second District upheld Taylor’s murder conviction, but in a later ruling said the trial judge abused his discretion in not considering Taylor’s ability to pay court costs. The appeals court upheld the judge’s order that Taylor pay nearly $6,600 in restitution.

Justice Melody Stewart in her dissent agreed with the Second District’s interpretation of state law that judges must consider a defendant’s ability to pay.