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COA affirms remanded sentence

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s remanded sentence of 44 years, finding that his previous drug conviction could serve as both the basis for his consecutive sentence for a firearm conviction and to enhance his sentences for his other convictions.

In Johnnie Stokes v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1009-CR-578, Johnnie Stokes challenged his sentence handed down on remand for Class B felonies robbery, attempted robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, and Class C felony criminal recklessness. Previously, the Court of Appeals had vacated five of his convictions related to a robbery of a recording studio in 2008 and ordered him to be re-sentenced. He received concurrent terms of 20 years for robbery and 10 years for attempted robbery, to be served consecutive to 20 years on the firearm conviction, and consecutive to four years for criminal recklessness.

Stokes argued that his sentence was improperly enhanced twice for the same prior felony conviction, claiming his 2001 conviction for dealing in cocaine improperly served as both the basis for his consecutive sentence for his firearm conviction and as part of his extensive criminal history that the trial court considered an aggravating circumstance in sentencing him for his other present offenses.

Chief Judge Margret Robb noted that explicit legislative direction permits the “enhancements’ that Stokes opposes. The judges didn’t agree with Stokes’ reliance on Sweatt v. State, 887 N.E.2d 81, 83 (Ind. 2008).

“Although his sentences for UPFSVF, robbery, and criminal recklessness were all enhanced based – technically, in part – on the same prior felony conviction, Stokes’s case is substantially different from Sweatt because a more appropriate characterization of his enhanced sentences would focus on the general length and severity of his criminal history, not a single conviction among the several,” wrote the chief judge. “The trial court recounted Stokes’s dealing in cocaine conviction while explaining his entire criminal history, and did not rely on it individually.”

The judges also found that Stokes’ sentence doesn’t violate the double jeopardy clause of the Indiana Constitution because the sentences for his convictions of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, robbery, and criminal recklessness were based on different firearms.

They also held that his consecutive sentence for the firearm conviction is not inappropriate in light of the nature of his offense and character.

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  1. 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.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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