Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Guilty plea voided in work shooting



By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MIDDLETOWN - An appeals court has reversed the conviction of a woman who fatally shot a co-worker at a Fairfield packaging plant three years ago.

The Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals on Monday said the guilty plea of Sophal Prom, now 37, could not stand because she received some incorrect information when she pleaded to a reduced charge of murder.

The appeals court's order voids her guilty plea and the resulting conviction and sentence in the shooting death of Darlene Adams, 42, of Newport. On Sept. 28, 2000, Adams was shot 17 times at Prestige Display & Packaging in Fairfield, where both women worked.

Prom had faced a sentence of 23 years to life in prison if she had been convicted of aggravated murder, but was sentenced to 18 years to life after pleading guilty to the reduced charge in late 2001.

It was unclear Monday what would happen next in the case because her attorneys, Ohio public defenders David Bodiker and Stephen Hardwick, could not be reached for comment.

Common Pleas Judge H.J. Bressler in 2001 told Prom that, as part of her sentence, she would be subject to "post-release control," which is similar to probation. However, she was not eligible for that type of supervision; she would only be eligible for parole under Ohio law.

The court attempted to correct the mistake with an amended document later that same day.

But, the appeals court said, while legal rules allow for correction of clerical mistakes in judgments, "it is questionable whether the variance between the two (documents) represents a correction of a mere clerical error."

"Prom necessarily was unaware of the maximum penalty to which she was exposed by her plea," the appeals court said.

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E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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