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COA reverses guilty plea to Class A felony child molesting

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Because a defendant repeatedly maintained his innocence to Class A felony child molesting at his guilty plea hearing but also pleaded guilty to the charge, the trial court erred in accepting his plea, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In James R. Johnson v. State of Indiana, No. 44A04-1105-PC-264, James Johnson was charged with Class A felony child molesting for allegedly using his tongue to touch the vagina of a girl under the age of 14. At his guilty plea hearing, Johnson said he would plead guilty to the charge, but he denied touching her with his tongue. He claimed he only used his hand, which would have been a Class C felony.

The trial court accepted his guilty plea, found him to be a habitual offender, and sentenced him to 30 years for child molesting and a 30-year enhancement for his habitual-offender status.

The Court of Appeals reversed, pointing out that caselaw has insisted that a factual basis must exist for a guilty plea and a judge may not accept a guilty plea while a defendant claims actual innocence. During the hearing, Johnson consistently maintained his innocence to Class A felony child molesting. Although he did admit to Class C felony child molesting for touching the child’s vagina with his hand, the trial court accepted the guilty plea and entered a judgment of conviction for a Class A felony.

The trial court may accept Johnson’s guilty plea to the Class C felony or set the matter for trial on the Class A felony, the appellate court held.

 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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