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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. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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