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COA upholds convictions of man who planned to kill attorney, judge, ex-wife

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has denied an appeal from a man who was convicted of planning to kill his ex-wife, her attorney, and a judge, ruling that amended charges did not negatively impact his rights and sufficient evidence existed to uphold the conviction.

In Nicholas Suding v. State of Indiana, No. 32A01-1002-CR-156, Nicholas Suding was convicted of three counts of conspiracy to commit murder as Class A felonies. In his appeal, Suding claimed that amendments filed after the omnibus date in October 2009 negatively affected his ability to defend against the amended charges.

At a hearing in June 2009, Suding’s ex-wife, Tamara Scott, and their daughter, S.S., were granted a protective order against Suding. Following that hearing, Suding’s wife, Renee, said he talked about killing Scott, her attorney, and the judge who entered the protective order.

After Suding told his wife to follow the judge and attorney to find out where they lived, she reported her husband to police, who gave her a recording device. She recorded a conversation with Suding in which he described how he would blow up the judge’s house with propane, and how he would kill his other victims. Police then arrested Suding.

Originally charged in July 2009 with one count of conspiracy to commit murder, Suding was charged with five additional counts in September, based on the recorded conversation with Renee Suding.

In December 2009 – past the omnibus date – the state amended the charges by modifying the overt acts, stating Suding “attempted to identify the homes and personal vehicles of the victims and/or agreed on a date to commit the murders and/or traveled to Kentucky to find an appropriate hiding place and to create an alibi.”

In his appeal, Suding argued that charges filed in December 2009 violated his rights by not allowing him adequate time to defend against the charges. But pursuant to Ind. Code Section 35-34-1-5(d), when the court permits an amendment to the charging information, “the court shall, upon motion by the defendant, order any continuance of the proceedings which may be necessary to accord the defendant adequate opportunity to prepare his defense.” If a court overrules a defendant’s objection to a late amendment, a defendant must request a continuance to preserve any argument that he was prejudiced by the late amendment.

Suding’s attorney did not request a continuance, and the issue was waived.

Citing Garcia v. State, 271 Ind. 510, 516, 394 N.E.2d 106, 110 (1979), the appeals court ruled that Renee Suding’s testimony provided sufficient evidence for conviction, because  a unilateral agreement to commit a crime is sufficient to sustain a conviction of conspiracy.

Suding also alleged that he was in grave peril and a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, due to a statement the prosecutor made during the trial about a prior “allegation involving a kid.” The appeals court ruled that the statement in question was inadmissible and did not affect the verdict. The appeals court also ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Suding, who received a sentence of 40 years imprisonment, with five years suspended for each count, to be served concurrently.
 

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