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High court upholds life sentence

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The Indiana Supreme Court upheld a man's sentence of life in prison, noting the defendant's numerous opportunities to reform, but that he continued to commit crimes.

Jeffrey Treadway appealed his convictions of murder, felony murder, robbery, and battery, and his sentence of life in prison without parole on numerous arguments, including that the trial court erred by not granting his motions for mistrial; in instructing the jury; and that his sentence is inappropriate.

Treadway knocked on the door of the home of an elderly couple for whom he had previously done some handy work. When Donald Carroll answered the door, Treadway attacked him with a brick, which caused his death. When Betty Carroll intervened, Treadway hit her and demanded money. She gave him $200 and he left. When describing the attacker to police, she noted his name was "Jeff" and he had previously done yard work for the couple. Treadway was arrested in Minnesota on an unrelated charge when police realized he was wanted in Indiana.

In Jeffrey Treadway v. State of Indiana, No. 49S00-0803-CR-147, the justices held the trial court didn't err in denying his three motions for mistrial based on hearsay testimony, jury separation, and instruction to the jury to continue deliberating. Under the hearsay testimony motion, Betty's stepson testified about what she had told him about her attacker. The testimony was nearly identical to Betty's testimony, so admitting it wasn't an error. Under the jury separation motion, the juror had been separated for just 20 minutes to express breast milk and no deliberations had occurred while she was gone, so there was no error. On the instruction to the jury motion, the trial court properly called the jury and the parties into open court, polled them, and notified the parties of the court's intent to instruct the jury to continue deliberating before sending the bailiff into the jury room. There was no error on this issue, wrote Justice Robert Rucker.

Treadway argued the trial court erroneously instructed the jury in the guilt and penalty phases of trial. The whole of the jury instruction during the guilt phase doesn't make it appear that the jury should come to a verdict when a verdict can't be reached, as Treadway claimed, wrote the justice. The trial court didn't err in instructing the jury by using the phrases "after you return a verdict" and "when you have agreed upon a verdict."

The trial court also didn't err in instructing the jury on the parole aggravator during the penalty phase or reading an instruction to the jury that included "a sentencing recommendation." Merely referring to the jury's determination as a "recommendation" didn't imply that its recommendation was only a preliminary step to sentencing and didn't suggest that the jury wasn't responsible for the ultimate sentence, the high court held.

The justices also rejected Treadway's argument that his sentence is inappropriate. Bludgeoning an elderly man to death during a robbery is horrific and brutal, and Treadway has an extensive criminal history beginning when he was a juvenile. His criminal conduct over the years has increased in seriousness, and despite being offered numerous opportunities to reform, he continued to pursue criminal activity.

The Supreme Court also affirmed the trial court didn't err in failing to dismiss the state's request for life imprisonment without parole; admitting into evidence the testimony of two inmate witnesses; that there was sufficient evidence; the state proved the existence of statutory aggravators beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the trial court's sentencing order is adequate.

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