By Darrell Wacker
VANDALIA — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said his office plans to appeal an upcoming ruling declaring Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black announced on Friday that he will issue his ruling by April 14.
“My job as Attorney General is to defend Ohio law, whether I agree with it or not - and I happen to agree here - and that’s what I’m going to do,” said DeWine.
DeWine was speaking before the Vandalia-Butler Chamber of Commerce at a member coffee series held at Christian Life Center.
“There is a presumption that anything passed by the Ohio Legislature is constitutional,” said DeWine during a question and answer session. “There is also a provision in the Ohio Constitution voted on by the citizens.”
At issue in Judge Black’s ruling is Ohio’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. DeWine said that the state will appeal to the Sixth Circuit of Appeals, and, ultimately, to the United States Supreme Court.
“This issue will ultimately be decided in the Supreme Court,” said DeWine. “Whether Ohio is the first case to get there in the unsure part, but the issue will be decided at the Supreme Court.”
Prior to the question and answer period, DeWine addressed changing the culture in the Attorney General’s office and used how the state-run Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI, handles rape kits as an example.
“The BCI is charged with processing DNA samples from rape kits, and when I got here, frankly, they weren’t in too big of a hurry,” said DeWine.
He said that the average time for processing a rape kit was 125 days and included 180 steps that had to be completed from the time the evidence came in until the time it went back to local law enforcement.
“Today, DNA evidence is processed in, on average, 22 days despite the workload doubling over the past three years,” he said. “In an emergency, it can be processed in as little as 24-48 hours.”
DeWine said that a change in Ohio law in 2011 that required DNA samples of anyone charged with a felony has led to the closure of several old cases, including that of a 12-year old girl who was raped in Englewood.
Mike Lang, a Sergeant in the Englewood Police Officer and a Butler Township Trustee was the lead investigator on the case in which Robert Bernardi entered the victim’s home while she was sleeping and raped her. Bernardi’s DNA was collected after an arrest in another county just a few days after the law went into effect and, as a result, led to his conviction nine years later.
Bernardi is now serving a prison sentence of 15 years to life.
“If that crime had occurred in the 1970’s it would have been the end of the story unless we had gotten very lucky,” said DeWine. “She couldn’t make an ID. But he (Bernardi) left DNA. That case would not have been solved if years ago he (Lang) hadn’t done what needed to be done.”
DeWine said his office has made it a priority to obtain and test the thousands of old rape kits from around the state, some that are nearly two decades old. As a result of this initiative, his office has received 4,000 kits from Cleveland alone.
“We have tested 3,000 of the kits from Cleveland, and have more to do,” said DeWine, “and we are consistently getting DNA matches in one out of every three.”
That assertion is backed by Cleveland police and prosecutors who announced they have gotten nearly 950 indictments for old, unsolved rape cases.
DeWine also touched on the growing problem with Heroin abuse in Ohio and said that a survey done by his office has uncovered more than 950 Heroin deaths in Ohio in 2013.
“It is an epidemic, and Heroin is in Jamestown, Beavercreek, and it’s in Vandalia,” said DeWine. “It is in all of those places because it’s cheap. It is a monumental problem.