ILNews

Appeal likely in post-deadlocked capital case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court may be asked to determine whether an Evansville judge correctly decided to uphold a death sentence after a jury's indecision regarding the penalty.

Attorneys for death row inmate Daniel Ray Wilkes aren't taking issue with how Vanderburgh Circuit Judge Carl Heldt applied the law but rather the nature and constitutionality of the statute itself.

Judge Heldt in late January decided on the death sentence for Wilkes, who was convicted in December on three murder counts for the April 2006 killings of an Evansville mother and her two daughters, ages 8 and 13. While jurors agreed on the guilt phase of the trial, they came back deadlocked 11-1 on the penalty Wilkes should face for the crimes. Judge Heldt took on that task and on March 13 declined to set aside his decision.

The decision marks the first time since Indiana law changed in 2002 that a judge had to determine the sentence in a capital murder case after a jury deadlocked over the penalty. The state law amendment requires judges to follow the juries' sentencing recommendations in capital cases. Before that, judges needed only to consider juries' recommendations but could enter a different penalty in capital murder cases.

Southern Indiana attorneys William Gooden and John Goodridge, who are representing Wilkes, plan to appeal the decision, which would go to the state's highest court as it relates to a capital case. Likely at issue will be a question of whether a death sentence can follow a hung jury, as well as whether a judge has the power to base an execution decision on the jury's finding in the guilt phase.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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