ILNews

Court: evidence doesn't support sentence

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court threw out a life-without-parole sentence for felony murder because there wasn't proof the killing was "intentional," as state law requires for that penalty.

In Hobert Alan Pittman v. State of Indiana, No. 31S00-0610-CR-355, Hobert Alan Pittman appealed his convictions and sentence of two consecutive life sentences for murdering his father and stepgrandmother, as well as a 73-year sentence for convictions of attempted murder, theft, auto theft, and conspiracy to commit burglary.

Pittman's stepmother, Linda, and stepgrandmother, Myrtle, were returning home and saw Pittman and John Michael Naylor come out of the garage and start shooting at the van his stepmother and stepgrandmother were in. He then got into Linda's Ford Explorer, drove past the van, stopped, and fired more shots into the van. Myrtle died from gunshot wounds and Linda was injured. Later, police found Pittman's father under a tarp in the garage dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Pittman was charged with two counts of felony murder because his father and stepgrandmother were killed in the course of a burglary. The jury recommended two sentences of life imprisonment without parole, and the trial court also sentenced him to 73 years on the other related convictions.

But the state couldn't support the life-without-parole sentence for the felony murder of Pittman's father, the justices determined. Because Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-9(b)(1) permits a sentence of life without parole only if the defendant has committed a murder by "intentionally" killing someone while committing another crime, the state has to prove the defendant was a major participant and the killing was intentional in order to impose a sentence of life without parole under Subsection (b)(1), Justice Theodore Boehm wrote.

Attempting to support that sentence, the state listed three aggravating factors listed in Indiana Code 35-50-2-(b): that he committed the murders by intentionally killing while committing or attempting to commit burglary; committed the murders lying in wait; and committed the murders while on probation after receiving a sentence for a commission of a felony.

There isn't any evidence Pittman killed his father, Justice Boehm wrote. Both Pittman and Naylor were on the scene, but there is no evidence as to who shot the man. While felony murder can be charged against someone who didn't intentionally or recklessly kill the victim, or may not have even been the killer at all, Pittman can't receive life without parole because that sentence requires proof he intentionally killed his father. As such, the high court set aside Pittman's life-without-parole sentence for felony murder of his father and revised his sentence for the felony murder to a 65-year term to be served consecutively with his other sentences.

The court also ruled on various other aspects of Pittman's appeal, such as the adequacy of the trial court's sentencing order, a motion for mistrial based on trial testimony, and admission of photographic evidence.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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