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COA affirms murder conviction, sentence of 14-year-old

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When asked whether the conviction of and sentence for felony murder were appropriate findings for a 14-year-old offender, the Indiana Court of Appeals today affirmed the Marion Superior Court’s decision.

In Nevin Brooks v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-0911-CR-651, Nevin Brooks had been found guilty of committing acts of murder, felony murder, and robbery following the killing of a man that occurred when Brooks was 14. The juvenile court waived jurisdiction to adult court, which convicted Brooks of all three crimes, and merged the convictions at sentencing. He was sentenced to 55 years.

Brooks appealed, raising the following issues: whether the juvenile court abused its discretion in waiving jurisdiction over Brooks; whether the admission of evidence from a pat-down search was proper under both the Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution; whether the trial court should have denied Brooks’ motion for mistrial; whether the state presented sufficient evidence; and whether the sentence imposed was inappropriate.

In the opinion, Senior Judge Betty Barteau wrote the Court of Appeals affirmed the juvenile court’s decision to waive its jurisdiction, and affirmed the trial court’s convictions of and sentence for felony murder.

On March 16, 2008, David Hardwick was fatally shot in the head during a robbery. Following a police investigation, it was determined he was shot at close range while kneeling on the ground. His wallet, watch, and bracelet were not found at the scene.

Approximately 20 minutes after Hardwick was killed, and 2 miles from the crime scene, surveillance video showed a young African-American male, later identified as 14-year-old Brooks, using Hardwick’s ATM card at a service station. Brooks was there in a car with at least two other individuals.

Two days later, a Lawrence Police Officer found Brooks when responding to a dispatch of an armed robbery at a Lawrence apartment complex. Concerned Brooks was armed, the officer did a pat-down search and found bullets on his person. Suspecting there was also a weapon, he handcuffed Brooks and searched for a weapon. Another officer brought the victim of the armed robbery over to Brooks, who identified him as the one who pointed a gun at the victim while robbing him of cash.

A police officer and Brooks’ mother identified Brooks in the surveillance tape from the service station where Hardwick’s card was used shortly after his murder. Forensic testing established the bullets the officer found on Brooks and a bullet recovered from Hardwick’s skull had the same uncommon characteristics.

The juvenile court, following the state’s petition, waived jurisdiction to adult court, where he was found guilty on all three counts and sentenced to 55 years.

In determining whether to waive him to adult court, the record disclosed he had prior encounters with the juvenile justice system, which failed to deter his criminal behavior. The record also disclosed probation workers considered him to be beyond rehabilitation by the juvenile justice system.

As for the search and seizure claims Brooks presented, the Court of Appeals found the description of Brooks was sufficient, and the stop where an officer found bullets similar to the one that killed Hardwick was warranted. The court also couldn’t say the officer’s actions were unreasonable, therefore the bullets were properly admitted as evidence.

“With reference to the character of the offender, we agree that Brooks had a very poor upbringing,” Judge Barteau wrote. “However, growing up in poverty without parental guidance is unfortunately not a rarity, and we do not consider it to be a factor that would cause us to deem an advisory sentence inappropriate. Not everyone who grows up in such an unfortunate environment channels his anger into robbery and murder. …”

“We note that the trial court considered Brooks’ age in fashioning the sentence imposed,” she continued. “The court also considered Brooks’ criminal history. He is not a little boy who can be trusted to mend his erring ways; he is a hardened individual who, in the midst of committing a series of crimes, robbed and murdered a random victim. Given the nature of the offense and the character of the offender, we cannot conclude that the sentence imposed by the trial court is inappropriate.”
 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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