High court clarifies sentencing requirement

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled today that a defendant who was sentenced to death in 1982 cannot receive life without parole during his second re-sentencing hearing despite being re-sentenced under the post-2002 death penalty statute.

In State of Indiana v. Zolo Agona Azania, 02S03-0505-PD-364, Azania killed a Gary police lieutenant in 1981 and was sentenced to death in 1982. He was re-sentenced to death in 1996. His conviction stands, but his death sentence has been overturned twice. In the instant case, the state petitioned the Supreme Court to rehear its decision reversing a trial court order prohibiting the state from seeking the death penalty for the third time.

The state is asking for clarification of which version of Indiana's death penalty statute applies to the new sentencing phase. The state wants to sentence Azania under the current version of the death penalty statute - issued in 2002 - that in addition to adding the option of life without parole for murders committed after June 30, 1993, when a trial court judge receives a sentencing recommendation from the jury, the judge is to sentence the defendant "accordingly." Under the most recent statute, juries can sentence the defendant to life without parole, the death penalty, or a term of years in prison.

Life without parole is not an option for a jury to choose in Azania's resentencing because he was convicted of murder in 1982, before that was an option for juries. Azania's new sentencing hearing is to be conducted pursuant to the current, post-2002 death penalty statute. Under the 2002 statute, the trial judge will be bound by the jury's sentencing recommendation as opposed to just taking it in into consideration when sentencing. Whatever the jury decides, as long as the sentence is not illegal, the judge must impose, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

In a separate opinion, Justice Robert Rucker dissented in part, saying he believes if Azania is going to be sentenced under the 2002 statute, then life without parole must be a sentencing option.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues