ILNews

Court revises sentence to fix double jeopardy issue

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Appellate courts must frequently address claims from convicted criminals that counsel was ineffective, sentences are unreasonable, or that the charges violate double jeopardy.

Rarely does the state concede that convictions violate double jeopardy principles, as happened in a case decided Tuesday by the Indiana Supreme Court.

In Chad E. Strong v. State of Indiana, No. 20S03-0612-CR-529, the Indiana Attorney General's Office acknowledged the defendant's claim that two convictions - one for murder and another for neglect of a dependent resulting in the same child's death - violate the hallmark legal principle preventing a person from being charged twice for the same offense.

Strong was convicted of murder in the death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter and also of a Class A felony of neglect of a dependent in connection with the child's death. He received consecutive terms of 65 years for murder and 55 years for the neglect felony. On direct appeal he raised issues of prosecutorial misconduct, evidence admission, sentence appropriateness, and double jeopardy. The Court of Appeals rejected all the claims except the last, remanding with instruction to reduce the conviction to a lower Class B felony and impose 20 years consecutive to the murder sentence. Strong argued this doesn't cure the double jeopardy problem, while the state disagreed.

"Such a recharacterization of the charges, however, does not eliminate the fact that both charged offenses would still be based on the same bodily injury," Justice Brent Dickson wrote in the unanimous four-page opinion. "Only when deemed a Class D offense, which does not include any element of bodily injury, does the conviction of neglect of a dependent satisfy the common law/statutory construction aspect of Indiana's double jeopardy jurisprudence."

The high court affirmed the murder conviction and sentence, but remanded to the trial court with instructions to reduce the conviction from a Class A to a D felony and revise the sentence to three years served consecutive to the murder sentence.
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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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