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COA affirms murder conviction and sentence over self-defense claim

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An Indianapolis man who was convicted and sentenced to 85 years in prison for killing a man who threatened his life and the lives of people inside his home lost his appeal Friday.

Billy Russell claimed in his appeal that Marion Superior Court erred by failing to offer the jury his tendered instruction on a claim of self-defense and that the jury had the option of convicting him of voluntary manslaughter. Russell also claimed the court erred because it didn’t completely bifurcate his murder trial from his trial on a charge of possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. He was found guilty on all charges and the jury imposed a 55-year murder sentence enhanced by 30 years for a habitual offender finding.

Russell lived in a home he shared with his grandmother, his girlfriend, her child and a female friend who was the ex-girlfriend of Jairme Wilburn. According to court records, Wilburn showed up at Russell’s house after 11 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2010, apparently intoxicated, and Wilburn and his ex-girlfriend argued outside. Wilburn refused to leave after she went back inside the house.

Russell told Wilburn’s ex-girlfriend she needed to handle the situation, and after she went back outside, Wilburn struck her in the face multiple times and threatened to kill her, witnesses said. She went back inside the house but refused to call 911, according to the record.

Some time later, Wilburn entered the house looking for his ex-girlfriend and refused to leave without her. Russell retrieved a handgun from the house and waited outside as Wilburn threatened to return and shoot up the house. He said, “I’ll kill every (expletive) in this house.”

Russell drew his gun while Wilburn was facing away and said, “You’re not going to leave, n-----,” and shot him in the back of the head.

In Billy Russell v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1203-CR-148, a panel of the Court of Appeals found no error or abuse of discretion in the claims Russell raised on appeal. The COA noted the court instruction given to the jury was taken directly from the self-defense statute, repeatedly advising the jury that Russell had to have “reasonably” believed in the danger facing him and in the amount of force used against that danger.

“There’s no indication that Mr. Russell went out from the house just simply to commit a murder,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel. “However, even if Russell did not premeditate Wilburn’s murder and Wilburn acted provocatively immediately before the shooting, there is considerable evidence of Russell’s poor character.”

The court also cited Hines v. State, 794 N.E.2d 469 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003), in which it found an abuse of discretion for a court to refuse to bifurcate a SVF charge and another felony charge, robbery in the case of Hines.

“We conclude that although the trial court could have completely bifurcated trial of the SVF charge from the murder charge, Hines did not require it so long as no mention was made of Russell’s alleged 'serious violent felon' status or of his criminal history as part of the murder trial,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel. “The trial court’s partial bifurcation accomplished that goal.”

The court also found that Russell, who was 26 at the time of the murder, had a criminal history beginning with juvenile referrals at age 8 that did not make his sentence inappropriate. “Russell has consistently and for many, many years demonstrated a complete inability to comply with the law, whether he has been free, on probation or community corrections, or even while incarcerated,” Barnes wrote.

 

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  1. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  2. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  3. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  4. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  5. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

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