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COA not persuaded by defendant’s claims on appeal

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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.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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