COA affirms second imposition of habitual-offender enhancement

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.