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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  3. 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.

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