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Any statute which punishes as a crime an act previously committed, which was innocent when done; which makes more burdensome the punishment for a crime, after its commission, or which deprives one charged with crime of any defense available according to law at the time when the act was committed, is prohibited as ex post facto. The constitutional prohibition and the judicial interpretation of it rest upon the notion that laws, whatever their form, which purport to make innocent acts criminal after the event, or to aggravate an offense, are harsh and oppressive, and that the criminal quality attributable to an act, either by the legal definition of the offense or by the nature or amount of the punishment imposed for its commission, should not be altered by legislative enactment, after the fact, to the disadvantage of the accused.
Defendants were indicted for the crime of embezzlement. Defendants filed motions for separate trials, which were denied. Defendants were convicted and their convictions were sustained by the Ohio Supreme Court. Defendants filed motions to dismiss the writs of error. Defendants claimed that their motions for separate trials were denied under an ex post facto law.
Was the denial of the separate trials proper?
The Court held that the legislation was not harsh or oppressive as applied to defendants because the legislation neither deprived defendants of any previously available defense nor affected the criminal quality of the act charged. In addition, the Court stated that the legislation did not change the legal definition of the offense or the punishment to be meted out.