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  #1  
Old 10-09-2013, 02:55 PM
Fotheringay-Phipps Fotheringay-Phipps is online now
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Live Man Still Legally Dead: Why?

You're still legally dead, judge tells Fostoria man
Quote:
Donald Eugene Miller Jr. walked out of Hancock County Probate Court on Monday as legally dead as ever.

In 1994, the court ruled that Miller was legally dead, eight years after he disappeared from his Arcadia rental home.

The same judge, Allan Davis, ruled Monday that Miller is still dead, in the eyes of the law. Miller's request for a reversal came well after the three-year legal limit for changing a death ruling, Davis said.
Leaving aside the details of Miller's particular story, what was the purpose of passing laws placing a statute of limitations on overturning death rulings? It sounds like the intention was specifically to have live people legally dead, which is weird.

One commentor to that article, claiming to be a law professor, says the purpose of such laws was so that other people couldn't challenge a guy's death ruling, not so that the guy himself couldn't. The distinction seems to make sense - in which case either the judge wasn't realizing this (as the commentor claimed) or was correctly applying a law which as written failed to anticipate this situation.

But that also seems strange. Does that mean that before 3 years other people can overturn a death ruling? I would have thought once a guy was ruled dead he was dead unless that ruling was appealed. Unless the law just put a time limit on appeals, which I understand to be common anyway, so that there's in fact no specific SOL relating to death rulings.
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  #2  
Old 10-09-2013, 03:29 PM
Diceman Diceman is offline
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It looks to me like the main issue is that if the death ruling was reversed, then his ex-wife would have to pay back the death benefits that were paid out. And presumably, after 8 years the money is long gone. They could try to make this guy pay the money back, but apparently he doesn't have a pot to piss in, so that would be a pointless effort.
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  #3  
Old 10-09-2013, 04:02 PM
Ethilrist Ethilrist is online now
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Good news is, he doesn't have to pay taxes. Bad news is, he can't get a job.
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  #4  
Old 10-09-2013, 04:04 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is online now
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He can always change his name to Hotblack Desiato.
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  #5  
Old 10-09-2013, 04:13 PM
cmkeller cmkeller is offline
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Ethrilist:

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Bad news is, he can't get a job.
With companies cutting workers' hours to avoid paying health benefits, I'd think that hiring a dead man would be ideal.
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  #6  
Old 10-09-2013, 04:13 PM
johnpost johnpost is online now
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Originally Posted by Ethilrist View Post
Good news is, he doesn't have to pay taxes. Bad news is, he can't get a job.
there are cell phone commercials to act in.
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  #7  
Old 10-09-2013, 06:27 PM
doreen doreen is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diceman View Post
It looks to me like the main issue is that if the death ruling was reversed, then his ex-wife would have to pay back the death benefits that were paid out. And presumably, after 8 years the money is long gone. They could try to make this guy pay the money back, but apparently he doesn't have a pot to piss in, so that would be a pointless effort.
It's more than 8 years-
"In 1994, the court ruled that Miller was legally dead, eight years after he disappeared from his Arcadia rental home." He left home in 1986 and was declared dead in 1994. So his ex-wife started getting the benefits in 1994- almost 20 years ago. She certainly doesn't have the money anymore.

The only way I can see that the death ruling matters is because Social Security surely won't voluntarily start paying him a benefit next year. They might be willing to issue him a new number so he can work (in fact I'd bet money they would), but since he's 61 I don't think that's the issue. I doubt that solution would satisfy him, because he wouldn't have enough covered work under the new number to collect next year. I think he somehow believes that if he can get the ruling overturned , he'll be able to collect his own benefits starting at 62 without having to repay those paid for his kids.


Back to the question - the three year limitation is to have finality. Whether it's one or three or five or ten years, there has to be a point where it's final. This guy's ex-wife shouldn't have to live the rest of her days wondering if he'll turn up and she'll have to repay Social Security , heirs shouldn't have to spend their entire lives wondering if Uncle Thurston will ever return from the cruise. That sort of thing.
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  #8  
Old 10-09-2013, 07:33 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Well, this makes me glad that I don't live in Hancock County anymore. Umm, or maybe, it scares me. Say that I go back for a visit. People say, "Wendell, what are you doing here? Aren't you dead?". "No, of course not," I say. "I left after I graduated from college." "Well, we had you declared dead long ago, since no one was sure what happened to you. Besides, we have an obituary for Wendell Wagner that appeared in the local newspaper." "No, that's my father, who was also named Wendell Wagner." "Too bad. Now that you've been legally dead this long, we can't reverse the decision. Anyone could shoot you dead on the spot and not be convicted of anything, since you can't kill a dead man."
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  #9  
Old 10-09-2013, 07:37 PM
Leaper Leaper is offline
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Yeah, I was wondering: suppose this guy was murdered, or committed a crime himself. Can you prosecute (someone for killing) someone who's legally dead?

I know what the answer is most likely to be, but I'm dying (heh) of curiosity!
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  #10  
Old 10-09-2013, 07:54 PM
Zeke N. Destroi Zeke N. Destroi is offline
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
Well, this makes me glad that I don't live in Hancock County anymore. Umm, or maybe, it scares me. Say that I go back for a visit. People say, "Wendell, what are you doing here? Aren't you dead?". "No, of course not," I say. "I left after I graduated from college." "Well, we had you declared dead long ago, since no one was sure what happened to you. Besides, we have an obituary for Wendell Wagner that appeared in the local newspaper." "No, that's my father, who was also named Wendell Wagner." "Too bad. Now that you've been legally dead this long, we can't reverse the decision. Anyone could shoot you dead on the spot and not be convicted of anything, since you can't kill a dead man."
Along the same lines, can he now consider himself above the law?

Cop: You punched that guy.
Corpse: nope, couldn't have... I'm dead.

Cop: You robbed that bank.
Corpse: Nope, couldn't have... I'm dead

Cop: You killed that guy
Corpse: Nope, I'm not sure if I've made this clear officer but... I'm fucking DEAD.

Last edited by Zeke N. Destroi; 10-09-2013 at 07:55 PM..
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  #11  
Old 10-09-2013, 07:58 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeke N. Destroi View Post
Along the same lines, can he now consider himself above the law?

Cop: You punched that guy.
Corpse: nope, couldn't have... I'm dead.

Cop: You robbed that bank.
Corpse: Nope, couldn't have... I'm dead

Cop: You killed that guy
Corpse: Nope, I'm not sure if I've made this clear officer but... I'm fucking DEAD.
Being deceased has so many advantages. I'm surprised I didn't think of it sooner, he said deadpan.
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  #12  
Old 10-09-2013, 08:00 PM
Zeke N. Destroi Zeke N. Destroi is offline
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I see what you did there
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  #13  
Old 10-09-2013, 08:49 PM
Duckster Duckster is offline
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He could try and get elected to Congress. Then he could lie and cheat everyone with impunity because dead men tell no tales.
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  #14  
Old 10-09-2013, 08:50 PM
Magiver Magiver is offline
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Zombie thread on the first post? Seems a little premature.

I think he could have proven the judge wrong by throwing a chair at him. Any attempt to arrest him would overturn the decision.
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  #15  
Old 10-09-2013, 08:57 PM
Glazer Glazer is offline
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At least he can still vote in Chicago.
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  #16  
Old 10-10-2013, 08:18 AM
BubbaDog BubbaDog is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amateur Barbarian View Post
He can always change his name to Hotblack Desiato.
It would be a smart move. He could use that one till the end of the universe.
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  #17  
Old 10-10-2013, 08:33 AM
Floater Floater is offline
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German ex-footballer Lothar Matthäus has a similar problem.
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  #18  
Old 10-10-2013, 08:48 AM
kanicbird kanicbird is online now
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What was he doing all that time that he didn't need to be legally alive to do it?
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  #19  
Old 10-10-2013, 08:54 AM
Bisected8 Bisected8 is offline
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Originally Posted by kanicbird View Post
What was he doing all that time that he didn't need to be legally alive to do it?
He was [insert reviled profession here], of course.
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  #20  
Old 10-10-2013, 09:03 AM
Fotheringay-Phipps Fotheringay-Phipps is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doreen View Post
Back to the question - the three year limitation is to have finality. Whether it's one or three or five or ten years, there has to be a point where it's final. This guy's ex-wife shouldn't have to live the rest of her days wondering if he'll turn up and she'll have to repay Social Security , heirs shouldn't have to spend their entire lives wondering if Uncle Thurston will ever return from the cruise. That sort of thing.
I find this bizarre. This implies that the need for other people to claim this guy's assets and so on outweighs the needs of the guy himself to get his own property and life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaper View Post
Yeah, I was wondering: suppose this guy was murdered, or committed a crime himself. Can you prosecute (someone for killing) someone who's legally dead?
I don't think this guy is legally dead. I think "Donald Eugene Miller" is legally dead (assuming this ruling stands up). The law does not recognize this guy as Donald Eugene Miller, even though everyone agrees that that's in fact who he is.

From a legal standpoint, the actual guy has no recognized identity. To the extent that he's trying to claim the identity of Donald Eugene Miller, he's out of luck. But for things that don't require a legal identity, he would be treated as a live person. They might call him John Doe or something, but that wouldn't otherwise affect the proceedings.

Last edited by Fotheringay-Phipps; 10-10-2013 at 09:06 AM..
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  #21  
Old 10-10-2013, 09:46 AM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
But that also seems strange. Does that mean that before 3 years other people can overturn a death ruling? I would have thought once a guy was ruled dead he was dead unless that ruling was appealed. Unless the law just put a time limit on appeals, which I understand to be common anyway, so that there's in fact no specific SOL relating to death rulings.
A person can have another declared dead after 5 years, under certain legal provisions in Ohio. So the 3 added is the 8 SOL actually.


2121.08 Administering estate when decree vacated.


(A) The probate court may at any time within a three-year period from the date of the decree establishing the death of a presumed decedent, upon proof satisfactory to the court that the presumed decedent is in fact alive, vacate the decree establishing the presumption of death. After the decree has been vacated all the powers of the executor or administrator of the presumed decedent cease, but all proceedings had and steps taken with respect to the administration of the estate of the presumed decedent prior to the vacating of the decree remain valid. The executor or administrator of the estate of the presumed decedent who is found to be alive shall settle the account of the executor's or administrator's administration down to the time of the vacating of the decree and shall transfer all assets remaining in the possession or under the control of the executor or administrator to the person for whom the executor or administrator is acting, or to that person's authorized agent or attorney.


As with any SOL, it sometimes mirrors what another state already passed or they need to set an SOL at some point in time, why not 3?

Last edited by lawbuff; 10-10-2013 at 09:47 AM..
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  #22  
Old 10-10-2013, 10:05 AM
Rhythmdvl Rhythmdvl is offline
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Ashley Judd should murder him (he said morbidly)
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  #23  
Old 10-10-2013, 10:20 AM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leaper View Post
Yeah, I was wondering: suppose this guy was murdered, or committed a crime himself. Can you prosecute (someone for killing) someone who's legally dead?

I know what the answer is most likely to be, but I'm dying (heh) of curiosity!
I was wondering the exact same thing. Is there any case law as to how judicial declarations of death that are clearly wrong from a practical, factual point of view are handled in prosecutions under criminal law? E.g. can a court rule that a person is alive for the purpose of criminal laws against murder, theft, and aggravated second degree mopery but dead for the purpose of family law (can't get married), Social Security (no check for you), licenses and permits (no driving for you, no professional licenses, no credits or degrees from State universities), etc.?

Judge: "You just mowed down a dozen Girl Scouts with that car. Since you are dead, I cannot suspend your driver's license or give you "bad driver" demerit points because those are civil proceedings, but I can sentence you to prison for manslaughter and reckless driving. Keep in mind you won't be eligible for privileges in prison because only living prisoners get them. Dead men get no parole, no early release, no vocational training, no therapy, no canteen access (you're dead!), it'll be a bad life. Good luck."

Last edited by robert_columbia; 10-10-2013 at 10:21 AM..
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  #24  
Old 10-10-2013, 10:26 AM
lawbuff lawbuff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert_columbia View Post
I was wondering the exact same thing. Is there any case law as to how judicial declarations of death that are clearly wrong from a practical, factual point of view are handled in prosecutions under criminal law? E.g. can a court rule that a person is alive for the purpose of criminal laws against murder, theft, and aggravated second degree mopery but dead for the purpose of family law (can't get married), Social Security (no check for you), licenses and permits (no driving for you, no professional licenses, no credits or degrees from State universities), etc.?
The PROBATE Code is totally seperate in force and effect from the CRIMINAL Code, period.
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  #25  
Old 10-10-2013, 10:28 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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I think that basically, as others said, the legal processes that happened when he was declared dead do not have to be unravelled. The court delcared he was legally dead a long time ago. That ruliing stands. No need to give back death benefits, to return estate property, etc.

What happens to him Social-security-wise, I guess depends on SS rules. I am amazed that he did not impact on their radar either for that long. Either he worked using a different number (and now can collect on that number's benefits) or he worked without SS contributions after he disappeared, hence no further SS benefits.

Even if they give him credit for his early years, what are about 10 or 15 years of contributions going to get you 27 years later? Plus he is partly the architect of his own misfortune by failing to contact anyone earlier to straighten this out. Maybe they could hold the cost of inappropriately paid benefits against him.

Basically, you pop up almost 30 years after you disappeared and expect everyone to reverse every transaction taken due to your misadventures - ain't gonna happen. At a certain point every transaction has to be final. Maybe if you were stranded on a desert island until the final epsiode, you'd have an excuse.

It seems analogous to "squatter's rights". In many jurisdictions, a person who enjoys unhindered use of property without object from the owner after 20 years can claim title.

Doesn't stop you from being charged with crimes - just from undoing the death settlements.
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  #26  
Old 10-10-2013, 10:40 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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IANAL, I would think if the basic contention of a criminal conviction is proved wrong by self-evident facts, the person can demand exoneration. "You convicted me of killing Fred, now Fred just walked into the church for his memorial service." This would be not much different, just a bit more dramatic, than "you convicted me of rape 20 years ago, and the semen DNA retested recently does not match."

Of course, the usual reaction to the latter case in some juridictions is to try and pass laws disallowing retesting to avoid embarrassing the system... Kind of difficult to do for some "corpse" dancing around and yapping on the nightly news.

When new exculpatory evidence pops up, the defendant IIRC can petition for a new trial. The prosecution may opt to try him again, or if their case has fallen apart, they don't contest the situation and the trial automatically results in a Not Guilty verdict.
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  #27  
Old 10-10-2013, 12:15 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Looks to me like the issue is related to financial situations.

Suppose he had an inheritance. Then he shows up a decade later, his will was executed, his heirs have spent the money and sold the property and generally moved on with their lives. Now he wants to be reinstated and get his property back. Oops.

In this situation, it would require repayment of SS benefits that his family accrued.
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  #28  
Old 10-10-2013, 12:23 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Oops, posting error. Tried to post that yesterday, before everybody else already said it, and said it better.
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  #29  
Old 10-10-2013, 12:38 PM
Miller Miller is online now
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I wonder to what extent the fact that his disappearance was voluntary plays into the decision? This guy dropped out of society, apparently in part to avoid paying child support. I don't have a problem with saying to that guy, "You made your choices twenty years ago, now you have to live with them," but someone who was, say, lost at sea? Or one of these people who get kidnapped and held for years. Imagine if Joseph Fritzl had faked his wife's death, and locked her in that basement dungeon of his for thirty years. Does the judge have any sort of discretion about cases like that, or is that statute of limitations unavoidable?
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