COA not persuaded by defendant’s claims on appeal

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Bret Lee Sisson’s felony convictions of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, finding no abuse of discretion or fundamental error during his trial.

At some point in late May or early June 2009, Sisson and Belinda Myers drove to the home of Judith and Richard Baber, where Sisson stole jewelry and guns from the home. He later exchanged the guns for marijuana and cash. Sisson and Myers were arrested June 17, 2009, and remained incarcerated. The Babers didn’t discover the burglary until after the arrests.

Sisson’s first trial resulted in a mistrial, so the state filed an amended SVF charge and habitual offender allegation without objection from Sisson a week later. The state alleged that the offenses occurred on or about June 2009 in the amended information as opposed to “on or about June 20, 2009” as was originally filed. Sisson was convicted as charged and also found guilty of the SVF charge and found to be a habitual offender.

Over Sisson’s objection, the same judge – Judge Richard Maughmer – who presided over the trial also sentenced him. Sisson sought his removal from sentencing because Maughmer had acted as the prosecuting attorney on Sisson’s rape conviction, which supported the habitual offender enhancement. He was sentenced to 53 years in the Department of Correction.

Sisson raised six issues on appeal, including that fundamental error occurred when the state refiled a previously dismissed SVF charge and habitual offender allegation after the mistrial, that the state’s failure to respond to his notice of alibi by the narrowing of the time period during which the offense was alleged to have occurred constituted a violation of the alibi statute, and that Maughmer should have granted his change of judge or recused himself for sentencing purposes only.

In Bret Lee Sisson v. State of Indiana, 09A02-1102-CR-199, the Court of Appeals noted that the SVF charge was dismissed prior to jury selection in Sisson’s first trial, so jeopardy never attached with respect to that charge and refiling was not barred. He also did not object to the dismissal of the SVF charge and habitual offender allegation, so refiling was not barred, Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote. The judges also rejected Sisson’s claim that refiling the charges was vindictive.

Sisson also failed to raise his claim regarding the alibi statute at trial.

“If Sisson believed that the lack of precision in the charging information impaired his ability to present a defense, he should have raised the issue prior to trial. His failure to do so constitutes waiver of any error in this regard,” Friedlander wrote. “Because Sisson was aware that the State intended to present evidence that Sisson
committed the crime prior to the date of his incarceration before trial, his claim that the State’s failure to narrow the time frame alleged in the charging information impaired his ability to formulate a defense is unpersuasive.”

The judges also found there was no reason for Maughmer to recuse himself prior to Sisson’s sentencing. Because Maughmer was not disqualified from presiding over Sisson’s jury trial due to an appearance of bias based on his involvement prosecuting Sisson previously for rape, there is no basis to conclude he was disqualified from pronouncing sentence for that reason, the court concluded.


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.