COA: alternative murder sentence illegal

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled a defendant is entitled to re-sentencing on his murder conviction since the trial court wasn't authorized to sentence him to death and to a term-of-years sentence if the death penalty was overturned.

"With respect to practical considerations, it is apparent from this case that the alternative sentencing scheme is fraught with peril," wrote Judge Cale Bradford. "By providing for one imposed sentence and another potential sentence, this scheme creates ambiguity and confusion with respect to questions of waiver and preservation of error, it blurs issues available for and addressed upon review, and it obfuscates orders and instructions upon remand."

In Chijoike Bomani Ben-Yisrayl, f/k/a Greagree Davis v. State of Indiana,  No. 49A02-0806-CR-512, Chijoike Bomani Ben-Yisrayl appealed his aggregate 150-year sentence for his convictions in 1984 of murder, rape, burglary, and criminal confinement. He received a total of 90 years on the rape, burglary, and criminal confinement convictions and the death sentence for murder. In the event the death penalty was set aside, the trial court also imposed a 60-year sentence for murder.

Through a series of appeals, Ben-Yisrayl's death penalty was eventually overturned and the state moved to dismiss the imposition of it. Marion Superior Judge Grant Hawkins, who was to hear Ben-Yisrayl's case on remand, recused himself because he had been asked to remove himself on another death penalty case. In 2008, the trial court adopted the 150-year sentence originally imposed.

Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-3 provides the options for murder sentences, but the plain language doesn't explicitly authorize the imposition of both a term-of-years sentence and the death penalty, wrote Judge Bradford. Without explicit authority, and the fact I.C.35-50-2-9, the death penalty statute, makes no reference to it, the appellate court isn't inclined to infer the trial court may elect both options simultaneously.

"Here, because the death penalty and term of years were designated alternative sentences, in theory they were arguably never simultaneously imposed in violation of double jeopardy," he wrote. "Nevertheless, the imposition of two sentences, with one automatically to take effect upon the vacation of the other, especially when the other remains viable and the focus of the proceedings, creates needless risk for overlap and accompanying double jeopardy violations."

Finding his murder sentence to be illegal, the judges remanded with instructions to conduct a sentencing hearing and re-sentence Ben-Yisrayl. He is also entitled to a Blakely hearing at re-sentencing.

Ben-Yisrayl also challenged Judge Hawkins' recusal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court that was assigned this case after Judge Hawkins recused himself and it couldn't properly be transferred back because Judge Hawkins never set aside his recusal.


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.