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COA affirms second imposition of habitual-offender enhancement

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A Tippecanoe County man whose sentence enhancement for being a habitual offender was overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court – but later re-imposed after a retrial – was unable to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that his retrial was barred by res judicata.

Thomas Dexter was convicted of Class A felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death after he dropped his girlfriend’s young daughter after giving her a bath. He had tossed her in the air and she slipped from his grip and hit the tub. The jury enhanced his sentence by 30 years based on two prior felony convictions. But the Supreme Court reversed because a copy of the order entering judgment of conviction on the 2000 offense wasn’t signed by the trial judge. But they held the state could retry Dexter on the habitual-offender enhancement.

On retrial, the state introduced a certified transcript from Dexter’s 2000 guilty plea and sentencing hearing on the felony theft charge. The jury again found him to be a habitual offender and the court imposed a 30-year enhancement.

“Although our Supreme Court held that the unsigned order entering judgment of conviction was not sufficient to prove the existence of Dexter’s 2000 felony theft conviction, it did not rule out other methods of proving the existence of this conviction,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in Thomas Dexter v. State of Indiana, 79A04-1212-CR-611.

The certified transcript presented at retrial was not presented during the first trial, the judges pointed out, so the Supreme Court did not evaluate it during Dexter’s appeal. The high court has held that the state must introduce evidence certified and authenticated records of a defendant’s prior felony convictions to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of those prior convictions. As such, the COA held that the certified transcript from Dexter’s May 2000 guilty-plea and sentencing hearing was sufficient to establish the fact of his 2000 felony theft conviction.

The judges also affirmed that Dexter could be retried on the enhancement.

“The Court did not reach any legal conclusion that would preclude Dexter from being found a habitual offender if the State proved the existence of the theft conviction; therefore, it expressly remanded the case for resentencing proceedings. Because our Supreme Court’s decision was not a final judgment on the merits, the State was not barred from retrying Dexter under the doctrine of res judicata,” Vaidik wrote.
 

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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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