Attorneys Explain Why Supreme Court Should Hear Convicted Murderer’s Case

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In asking that the Ohio Supreme Court hear his case, a 22-year-old sentenced to life in prison claims his case should proceed due to it being of "public and great general interest" and would call for the high court to make a ruling on the issue of allied offenses.

Mahat Osman is one of three men convicted in the 2009 murder of Donnie Putnam, who was caught in the crossfire at a shootout in New Marshfield. Osman, Abdifatah Abdi and Phillip Boler were each sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole until 28 years had been served. A fourth co-defendant, Hamda Jama, took a plea deal and served four years in prison.

Abdi won the right to be re-sentenced, citing State v. Johnson, a case that called for sentences to be merged when allied offenses were involved. During the re-sentencing hearing, he took a plea deal that saw the life sentenced still imposed but the possibility of parole reduced to 15 years served. Osman won the same right to be re-sentenced, but did not take a plea deal. The trial court determined his convictions of murder and aggravated robbery were committed with separate animus, or mindset, and re-sentenced him to 28 years to life.

In asking the Ohio Supreme Court to hear Osman's case, defense attorneys Paul Giorgianni and Thomas Hayes assert that the high court has yet to expound upon the felony murder clause in the law and the issue of merging sentences is of particular importance in the felony murder context. Felony murder can be charged if a person dies as the result of the commission of another felony crime happening.

The defense points out, too, that Osman "is not the person who killed (Putnam)" and that Putnam was shot by someone who was inside the home of Bill Osborne that Osman, Abdi and Boler attempted to rob. Being that Putnam and Osborne were separate victims in the case does not mean that Osman had a separate mindset or separate intentions when he committed the robbery.

Under Ohio's merger statute, having felony murder and the predicate felony offense (in this case the charge of aggravated robbery) does not necessarily mean a separate animus is present, according to the defense. In other words, one action can result in two different crimes without there being intent to commit two different crimes.

"Here, Mr. Osman's multiple offenses were committed by a single, physical act with the sole intent of committing aggravated robbery," the brief continues. "Thus, under this test, merger would be required."

The defense asserts that multiple convictions and cumulative penalties for felony murder and the predicate offense are not what was intended when the law was written.

"Putnam was not shot because of any animus on the part of Mr. Osman other than the animus to commit … aggravated robbery," the brief notes.

The defense concludes that because there is a general presumption against cumulative punishments and there is no clear intent on the part of legislature to have consecutive sentences in this case, Osman's charges should merge for sentencing.

The Ohio Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will hear the case.