YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The state Supreme Court Thursday ordered the case of a man serving a 49-year prison sentence for a rape he committed when he was 16 back to common pleas court to address a claim of ineffective counsel.
In their decision, the court ruled that Chaz Bunch, who was 16 when he was convicted in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court of the 2001 rape of a woman, was entitled to have the claim heard by the trial court in the case, but the trial court refused to hold the hearing.
Bunch claimed in his appeal that during his trial, his lawyer failed to call an expert witness who could have told jurors about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. The trial court refused to hear a hearing on whether or not the expert should have been called.
Although the Seventh District Court of Appeals rejected Bunch’s appeal on those grounds, the supreme court did not, ordering that a hearing be held on Bunch’s claim at the common pleas level.
Bunch originally received an 89-year sentence after he was convicted, but the state supreme court overturned that sentence, ruling it was cruel and unusual punishment. He was resentenced in 2019 to 49 years in prison.
Another person, Brandon Moore, was 15 at the time he was sentenced to 141 years in prison for his role in the crime. The supreme court also overturned his sentence, and he was later resentenced to 50 years in prison.