Pleas as mitigating circumstance allowed

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court granted rehearing in a case to clarify that defendants who plead guilty do not give up the opportunity to claim on appeal that the trial court should have considered the guilty plea a mitigating circumstance, even if defendants fail to bring up this claim during sentencing.

Alexander Anglemyer sought rehearing following the Supreme Court's decision Alexander J. Anglemyer v. State of Indiana, 43S05-0606-CR-230, affirming his sentences for robbery and battery. Anglemyer was charged with robbery as a Class B felony and battery as a Class C felony for assaulting and robbing a pizza delivery driver. Anglemyer pleaded guilty, and the trial court handed down a 16-year sentence.

Anglemyer appealed, alleging the trial court overlooked his guilty plea as a mitigating factor. Anglemyer never mentioned his guilty plea as a mitigating factor at his sentencing hearing. In Anglemyer's first appeal, the Supreme Court stated the trial court doesn't abuse its discretion when it doesn't consider a mitigating factor that was not raised at sentencing; because he did not bring it up then, the alleged mitigating circumstance was precluded from review in the previous appeal before the Supreme Court.

In this rehearing, the Supreme Court addressed that guilty pleas can be an exception to this issue. Justice Robert Rucker wrote that although Anglemyer did not mention his guilty plea as a mitigating factor during sentencing, this doesn't prevent him from raising the issue for the first time on appeal.

A defendant has to establish the mitigating factor is not only supported by the record but also that the mitigating evidence is significant. Anglemyer received the benefit of a reduced sentence and charges for pleading guilty, but he tried to minimize his culpability for the crimes by citing his unemployment, mental impairment, and history of emotional and behavioral problems.

In this case, Anglemyer hasn't shown his guilty plea was a significant mitigating circumstance, and the Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion by omitting reference to the guilty plea when imposing the sentence, wrote Justice Rucker.

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