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COA reverses guilty plea to Class A felony child molesting

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Because a defendant repeatedly maintained his innocence to Class A felony child molesting at his guilty plea hearing but also pleaded guilty to the charge, the trial court erred in accepting his plea, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In James R. Johnson v. State of Indiana, No. 44A04-1105-PC-264, James Johnson was charged with Class A felony child molesting for allegedly using his tongue to touch the vagina of a girl under the age of 14. At his guilty plea hearing, Johnson said he would plead guilty to the charge, but he denied touching her with his tongue. He claimed he only used his hand, which would have been a Class C felony.

The trial court accepted his guilty plea, found him to be a habitual offender, and sentenced him to 30 years for child molesting and a 30-year enhancement for his habitual-offender status.

The Court of Appeals reversed, pointing out that caselaw has insisted that a factual basis must exist for a guilty plea and a judge may not accept a guilty plea while a defendant claims actual innocence. During the hearing, Johnson consistently maintained his innocence to Class A felony child molesting. Although he did admit to Class C felony child molesting for touching the child’s vagina with his hand, the trial court accepted the guilty plea and entered a judgment of conviction for a Class A felony.

The trial court may accept Johnson’s guilty plea to the Class C felony or set the matter for trial on the Class A felony, the appellate court held.

 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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