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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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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