ILNews

Court of Appeals revises burglary sentence

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals today revised a 40-year sentence handed down to a 19-year-old, citing inconsistencies between the trial court's oral and written sentencing statements.

In Nathan D. Feeney v. State of Indiana, 79A02-0609-CR-823, Feeney appealed his cumulative 40-year sentence for convictions of 10 counts of burglary as a Class B felony, which consisted of four consecutive and six concurrent 10-year sentences, because he believed the sentences to be too harsh given the nature of his offenses and his character.

At 18 years of age, Feeney was charged with 43 felony counts and pleaded guilty to 10 counts of burglary as a Class B felony, with the state dismissing all other counts.

At his sentencing hearing, the court said his young age could be a mitigating factor in where "you've made a mistake, but these are not mistakes." It also said the number of burglaries committed required more than the minimum sentence and consecutive sentences.

In its written sentencing statement, the trial court found the aggravating factors - the number of burglaries, Feeney's lack of candor, and the fact he had been selling drugs - balanced with his age as a mitigating factor. He was sentenced to serve 30 years at the Indiana Department of Correction, four years with the Tippecanoe County Community Corrections, and six years on supervised probation.

In the opinion, Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote the Court of Appeals would typically remand a case like this to the trial court; however, this is not an ordinary case. In revising the sentence, the Court of Appeals citied the differences between what was said at the oral sentencing and what was written in the sentencing statement about Feeney's age being a mitigating factor.

Typically, Indiana appellate courts have held that when a trial court finds a balance between the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, there is no reason to impose consecutive sentences. When there is conflict between the oral and written sentencing statements, the Court of Appeals can credit the statement that more accurately reflects the court's finding; however, "we cannot decipher whether the trial court's imposition of consecutive sentences represents a simple error of law or if it implies a finding that the aggravators actually outweigh the mitigators," wrote Judge Vaidik.

Under Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B), the Court of Appeals revised Feeney's sentence to 14 years: 10 served in the Indiana Department of Corrections, two years at Tippecanoe County Community Corrections, and two years on supervised probation. The Court of Appeals said Feeney is surely in need of reformation, but 40 years is unduly harsh and he may find himself taken under the guidance of experienced criminals while in prison.
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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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