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COA orders reduced sentence in first impressions case

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In reversing a sentence for a serious violent felon, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that intending to commit a “crime of violence” is not, in itself, a crime of violence.

In Zarumin Coleman v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1101-CR-12, Zarumin Coleman appealed his 60-year sentence for one count of Class A felony conspiracy to commit robbery and one count of Class B felony possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

Coleman argued that the sentence exceeded the maximum permissible for engaging in a single episode of criminal conduct. The appeals court examined Indiana Code Section 35-50-1-2(c), which states in part that the court may order sentences to be served consecutively, even if they are not imposed at the same time. But, the code section states: “However, except for crimes of violence, the total of the consecutive terms of imprisonment, exclusive of terms of imprisonment under IC 35-50-2-8 and IC 35-50-2-10, to which the defendant is sentenced for felony convictions arising out of an episode of criminal conduct shall not exceed the advisory sentence for a felony which is one (1) class of felony higher than the most serious of the felonies for which the person has been convicted.”

The appeals court considered whether felony conspiracy to commit robbery is a crime of violence, with respect to consecutive sentencing.

Coleman pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and firearm possession charges, following a botched robbery. Coleman had instructed his girlfriend to give a gun to one of the parties involved in the robbery attempt, and he drove the would-be robbers to a home that reportedly contained money and marijuana. Ronald Davis entered the home, and shot and killed two women and two children, using the gun Coleman’s girlfriend provided.

The appeals court held that despite the tragic events in the home, no evidence exists to suggest that Davis actually committed a robbery, as he fled without any property. It also concluded that intending to commit a crime of violence is not a crime of violence, and therefore, Coleman’s sentence was inappropriate.

“We are compelled to conclude a sentence of sixty years on convictions for Class A felony conspiracy to commit robbery and Class B felony possession of a firearm by a (serious violent felon) violate the single episode of criminal conduct rule for non-‘crimes of violence,’” the court wrote in its opinion.  

The court reversed and remanded for the trial court to resentence Coleman to a total term of 55 years. In accordance with Ind. Code Section 35-50-2-3(a), the 55-year term is the advisory sentence for murder, the next class of felony above Class A. The appeals court found that sentence to be appropriate, in light of the nature of the offenses and Coleman’s character, and refused to reduce it further to a term of 45 years.

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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