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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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