ILNews

Appeal likely in post-deadlocked capital case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court may be asked to determine whether an Evansville judge correctly decided to uphold a death sentence after a jury's indecision regarding the penalty.

Attorneys for death row inmate Daniel Ray Wilkes aren't taking issue with how Vanderburgh Circuit Judge Carl Heldt applied the law but rather the nature and constitutionality of the statute itself.

Judge Heldt in late January decided on the death sentence for Wilkes, who was convicted in December on three murder counts for the April 2006 killings of an Evansville mother and her two daughters, ages 8 and 13. While jurors agreed on the guilt phase of the trial, they came back deadlocked 11-1 on the penalty Wilkes should face for the crimes. Judge Heldt took on that task and on March 13 declined to set aside his decision.

The decision marks the first time since Indiana law changed in 2002 that a judge had to determine the sentence in a capital murder case after a jury deadlocked over the penalty. The state law amendment requires judges to follow the juries' sentencing recommendations in capital cases. Before that, judges needed only to consider juries' recommendations but could enter a different penalty in capital murder cases.

Southern Indiana attorneys William Gooden and John Goodridge, who are representing Wilkes, plan to appeal the decision, which would go to the state's highest court as it relates to a capital case. Likely at issue will be a question of whether a death sentence can follow a hung jury, as well as whether a judge has the power to base an execution decision on the jury's finding in the guilt phase.
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  1. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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