Prosecutor Issues Response

ST. MARYS — Auglaize County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Pierce, in a brief filed Tuesday, asked Ohio’s highest court to reject a convicted murderer’s request for a hearing in his case.

“This case does not involve a question of great public or great general interest nor does it involve a substantial constitutional question,” Pierce wrote in his brief in response to a request by Gordon W. Diggle III’s attorney for a hearing in his murder case. “The record in this matter will reflect that both the trial court and the Third District Court of Appeals clearly and accurately set forth the rational in admitting and/or affirming the statements of which Appellant now claims error.”

On May 14, Katherine Szudy, Diggle’s attorney, filed a request to have her client’s case heard in the Ohio Supreme Court. Diggle was convicted in 2011 on murder, felonious assault and aggravated robbery charges in the Sept. 8, 2010, beating death of Steven Casad in the alley behind the Friendly Tavern. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Diggle appealed his conviction and sentence to the Third District Court of Appeals in Lima, but judges rejected Szudy’s arguments earlier this year.

In her initial brief to the Ohio Supreme Court, Szudy claimed comments made by Casad to law enforcement outside an ongoing emergency setting constituted testimonial statements, which should not have been permitted. Casad told first responders that Diggle had attacked him in the alley of the Friendly Tavern, which several witnesses testified to during the trial.

In his response, Pierce rejected Szudy’s claim that those statements were testimonial in nature as first responders were obtaining information for the purposes of public safety.

“In this instance, Appellant’s main concern centers on the answer of the victim to the initial few questions of Patrolman Turpin, those answers being overheard in some instances by the paramedics at the scene,” Pierce wrote. “It is clear, Patrolman Turpin’s initial questioning upon arrival at the scene, shortly after the assault, focused on who, what, where, and location of the assailant. Those questions undeniably were being asked for the purposes of public safety.”

Pierce also noted officers initially believed Casad could have been involved in a larger altercation outside the bar.

“Contrary to Appellant’s assertion that Patrolman Turpin’s first actions were to initiate a criminal investigation, the record reveals that upon arrival Patrolman Turpin believed Casad may have been involved in a larger bar fight with others injured,” Pierce wrote. “The actions of Patrolman Turpin in this initial assessment were more in the line of a first responder at a scene where emergency personnel were still in the process of evaluating the medical needs of the victim, this initial encounter being very brief and informal.”

Pierce also rejected Szudy’s assertion Diggle received ineffective counsel during his trial. In her brief, Szudy claimed the attorneys failed to read and understand the court’s three-page entry regarding a motion in limine to preclude statements Casad made at the hospital to Turpin. It was during this conversation when Casad named Diggle as his assailant and provided details to Turpin about the attack.

“What appellate counsel describes as a ‘clear misunderstanding of the trial court’s ruling’ and ‘defense counsel’s confusion’ was not as alleged by appellate counsel a misunderstanding of the content of the ruling on the motion in limine, but rather the manner in which continued objections needed to be made in order to preserve objection on the motion in limine ruling,” Pierce wrote. “Next, during the cross examination of Patrolman Turpin, the trial counsel team — it cannot be ignored that there were two attorneys consulting over this decision — proceeded to open the door of the motion in limine. Trial counsel chose to proceed strategically with a line of questioning that, if successful, could have impeached the two officers that were the first responders. Therefore, if successful, it would put into question the credibility of the manner in which the crime scene was handled.”

According to online records, Diggle is currently serving his term in the Toledo Correctional Institution. He isn’t scheduled for a parole hearing until October 2035.