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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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