ILNews

Defendants can speak during allocution before sentencing

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Criminal defendants who plead guilty have the right to make statements in allocution prior to sentencing, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.

The unanimous opinion authored by Justice Robert D. Rucker came late Wednesday in Nicholas Biddinger v. State of Indiana, No. 49S05-0608-CR-305.

Biddinger was arrested and charged with various felonies, including murder, in 2004; he pleaded guilty to aggravated battery during the trial in October that year. The agreement provided that parties could argue positions on sentencing, but the executed range could be 10 to 20 years.

At his sentencing hearing, Biddinger's counsel answered "no" when asked about mitigating evidence, but he later said his client wanted to make a statement. The trial court determined that he had no right to allocution where he'd pled guilty. The court allowed a four-page written statement to be introduced as evidence and then allowed Biddinger to give an oral statement expressing his remorse.

Then-Marion Superior Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson sentenced him to 12 years in prison with two years suspended to probation for a total of 10 years executed. Biddinger appealed on grounds that the court erred in refusing to permit him to make a statement in allocution. The Court of Appeals addressed that issue and ruled that even if the trial court had erred, it was harmless because the full written statement had been introduced and no additional information would have affected the sentence. However, the appellate judges didn't address the case authority on the allocution right being good law, and the Supreme Court granted transfer to address that question of whether it's allowed.

"The answer is yes," Justice Rucker wrote. "A defendant who pleads guilty has a right to make a statement in allocution upon request prior to sentencing. In this case the trial court erred by not allowing Biddinger to make a statement in allocution. But the error was harmless. Further, Biddinger has not demonstrated that his 10-year executed sentence to be served in the Department of Correction requires revision. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court."
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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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