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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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