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Divided court affirms life without parole for 17-year-old who killed younger brother

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A 3-2 decision of the Indiana Supreme Court upheld a sentence of life without parole for a 17-year-old who killed his 10-year-old brother while babysitting and later dumped his body near a school in Rising Sun.

Justice Steven David wrote for the majority, affirming the Ohio Circuit Court sentence for Andrew Conley in the murder of Conner Conley.

“We hold that based on the age of Conley, the age of Conner, and the particularly heinous nature of the crime, a sentence of life without parole was appropriate,” David wrote for the majority that included Chief Justice Brent Dickson and Justice Mark Massa. “We hold that on the facts of this case, the sentence of life without parole is constitutional.”

“A seventeen-and-a-half-year-old caring for his ten-year-old brother murdered the defenseless child with his bare hands. After disposing of the body, Conley acted as if nothing was out of the ordinary,” David wrote. “He took steps to cover up the crime and hid his brother’s body in a park. The aggravating factor was clearly established and uncontroverted. The judge was within his discretion in weighing the mitigating factors in the manner in which he did.”

Justices Robert Rucker and Frank Sullivan Jr. dissented, saying they would have imposed a 65-year sentence, given Andrew Conley’s age and other mitigating factors.

“I do not believe the trial court manifestly abused its discretion in weighing aggravating and mitigating circumstances in this case. However, I do not agree Conley should have been sentenced to die in prison,” Rucker wrote.

Rucker’s dissent also points to research concluding that less than 6 percent of juveniles convicted in homicides receive sentences of life in prison without parole, and that the United States is the only country that doesn’t comply with the norm against imposing life without parole sentences on offenders under age 18. Indiana is one of 15 states allowing such sentences, Rucker wrote.

The dissent said the brutality of the crime wasn’t the only inquiry for the court, and noted Andrew Conley’s troubled upbringing and multiple attempted suicides. But he also had been a solid student with aspirations of going to college, no prior criminal record and a solid relationship with his family. Rucker also noted that the 17-year-old turned himself in the day after the killing.

“Conley was only seventeen at the time of this crime, and I find, as has the Supreme Court, that his age is relevant to the assessment of his character,” Rucker wrote. “It seems clear that Conley ‘was still a teenager with a developing brain and impulse control issues made worse by his mental illness.’”

Andrew Conley is only the fourth juvenile in Indiana to receive a sentence of life without parole.


 

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  • Failure
    Things like this happen because parents fail their children, a 17 year old has no business babysitting a 10 year old. Also the system fails, the police fail, the CPS fails the schools fail and the courts fail. The law, the police or the lists can't protect us from ourselves or from harm of others. We must protect our selves and to do that we must protect our constitutionl rights, especially the 2nd amendment, the right to bear arms!

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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