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COA upholds convictions in Indianapolis Hamilton Ave. murders

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a man’s convictions and reduced his sentence to 421 years for his involvement in the gruesome robbery and murders of seven Indianapolis residents, including three children, in June 2006.

James Stewart was convicted of seven counts of felony murder, six counts of criminal confinement, robbery, carrying a handgun without a license, burglary, and found to be a habitual offender. Stewart, along with Desmond Turner, went to the home of Emma Valdez and Alberto Covarrubvias Sr. on Hamilton Avenue with the intent to rob the family after believing drugs and money were inside. The couple, their two children and Valdez’s grandson, along with two relatives who showed up during the robberies, were killed.

There were no eyewitnesses who placed him at the crime scene and no physical evidence linked him to the crime. Testimony from four individuals regarding his confessions to being involved in the crime was used to convict him.

In James Stewart v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1001-CR-48, Stewart challenged his convictions of felony murder and robbery for violating double jeopardy principles, the admission of certain photographs and evidence and the exclusion of other testimony under the rules of hearsay, and whether he should have received the protections under the life without parole statute because his 425-year sentence is essentially a life sentence.

The appellate court agreed Stewart couldn’t be convicted of the robbery count and felony murder of one of the victims, and it vacated the robbery conviction and four-year sentence attached to it. In doing so, the majority declined to remand to enter judgment of conviction for the intentional murder conviction that the trial court vacated at sentencing. On this issue, Judge Cale Bradford concurred in result. The judges affirmed Stewart's remaining convictions, finding there was sufficient evidence presented to support them.

Regarding his sentence, the Court of Appeals found it didn’t violate equal protection considerations and wasn’t fundamentally unfair. Stewart wasn’t entitled to the protections found under the LWOP statute because his sentence is an aggregate one based on individual sentences imposed for multiple convictions and his habitual offender adjudication. The LWOP statute authorizes the imposition of a life sentence without parole for a single charge or conviction. Also, Stewart wasn’t denied due process in any fashion in the way he was sentenced, noted Judge James Kirsch.

The trial court didn’t err in excluding two statements implicating “Lucky” as the second shooter. Stewart wanted to have those statements admitted because he was trying to prove the truth of his assertion that Turner’s accomplice was named “Lucky,” not Stewart.

The judges also affirmed the admittance of testimony by a witness regarding the statement by Turner about finding Stewart after the murders to prevent Stewart from blaming Turner for the crimes. These statements were offered to show Turner’s then-existing state of mind.

With regard to crime scene and autopsy photos, the trial court didn’t err in admitting the gruesome photos as evidence. The probative value of the pictures outweighed any potential prejudice, wrote the judge.

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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