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Term of imprisonment reduced by half after COA rules sentence does not fit the crime

October 23, 2012

A man who pleaded guilty to child molesting had his sentence halved by the Indiana Court of Appeals on the grounds that the sentence imposed by the trial court was an outlier.

The COA reversed and remanded with instructions the trial court’s sentence in Calvin Merida v. State of Indiana, 69A01-1203-CR-110. It found the nature of the offense and the character of the defendant did not warrant the 60-year aggregate term of imprisonment assessed by the lower court.

Calvin Merida pleaded guilty to two counts of child molesting, as Class A felonies, for abusing his adopted daughter. The trial court sentenced him to 30 years imprisonment for each of the two counts with the sentences to run consecutively for an aggregate term of imprisonment of 60 years.

Merida appealed, challenging the appropriateness of his sentence.

In reviewing the case, the COA pointed out there was no evidence that Merida’s conduct was particularly violent although the victim is said to suffer from “life-altering anxiety” as a result of the offenses becoming known. Also with respect to his character, the court found he has no prior criminal history and did graduate from high school and has maintained steady and well-paid employment.

Citing in its role to “leaven the outliers,” the COA revised Merida’s sentence. It reversed the trial court’s sentencing order and remanded with instructions to revise the sentencing order to run his two 30-year sentences concurrent for an aggregate 30-year term.

Judge Terry Crone concurred in part and dissented. He disagreed with the majority’s decision to run Merida’s two 30-year sentences concurrently.

Instead, he wrote, he would have remanded with instructions that Merida’s sentence be revised so that eight years of the 30-year sentence on the second count would run consecutive to the 30-year sentence on the first count and the remainder would run concurrent for a total executed sentence of 38 years.

Crone acknowledged that Indiana Code 35-50-1-2 does not specifically authorize partially consecutive sentences, but he believes the statute should be interpreted to provide trial courts with flexibility in sentencing.

“If it is determined that the statute as currently written does not authorize partially consecutive sentences,” Crone wrote, “it is my hope that the legislature would amend the statute accordingly and give trial courts and appellate courts an important tool for crafting appropriate sentences in cases like this one,”   

 

 

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