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Supreme Court affirms death sentence in 2001 rape, murder

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A man whose death sentence and murder and rape convictions previously were reversed on appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court remains condemned after the justices on Thursday affirmed a trial court’s denial of post-conviction relief.

Roy Lee Ward appealed the denial of post-conviction relief of his death sentence after he pleaded guilty to murder and rape in his second trial for the 2001 mutilation killing of 15-year-old Stacy Payne. The state’s high court previously reversed his first conviction due to prejudicial publicity.

The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed denial of PCR on a direct appeal from Spencer Circuit Special Judge Robert Pigman. Ward appealed on several grounds. He claimed trial counsel were ineffective in presenting mitigating factors, challenging aspects of the state’s case, and assisting at appeal; and that Indiana’s death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment.

The unanimous 52-page ruling in Roy Lee Ward v. State of Indiana, 74S00-0907-PD-320, held that mitigating factors such as Ward’s mental health and upbringing were properly heard in post-conviction relief, and in some cases Ward raised claims in PCR that were unknown at the time of his trial.

“Our review of the record does not lead us to an opposite conclusion than that reached by the PC court, that Ward’s trial counsel did not perform deficiently in their mitigation investigation,” Justice Frank Sullivan wrote. “The record largely corroborates the PC court’s findings of fact and ultimately supports its conclusions of law.”

The opinion detailed the grisly nature of Ward’s crime and found that any mitigating factors that had not been presented at sentencing would have been unlikely to persuade jurors to impose a sentence of life without parole.

“The dominant features of Ward’s makeup as it relates to this case are his antisocial personality and his total lack of remorse,” Sullivan wrote. “ … We found the evidence of torture and mutilation to be overwhelming.”

The justices also rejected claims by Ward that Indiana’s death penalty was unconstitutional and that evidence of fewer executions and capital opinions weighed in favor of a sentence of life without parole.
 
“We do not find the reduction in the rate of death sentences imposed since 1993 to result from any constitutional infirmity in our death penalty statute,” the justices found, and used Ward’s claims of declining frequency to argue in favor of its constitutionality.

“Ward reported that 94 individuals had been sentenced to death in Indiana since 1977,” the ruling says. “Of those, 22 had been executed, 12 were currently on death row, and 4 had died of other causes. We have reviewed the remaining 56 cases and found that in 44, the individuals received relief from their death sentences on direct appeal or in state post-conviction proceedings.

“We believe this record is indicative of a death penalty system that provides the appellate review required by the Constitution.”





 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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