ILNews

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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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