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Divided panel: OWI-causing-death retrial not double jeopardy

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A majority of an Indiana Court of Appeals panel upheld a man’s conviction and 14-year sentence for driving while intoxicated causing death, but a dissenting judge said the unusual case history that led to the outcome constituted double jeopardy.

Jeffrey Cleary was involved in a crash on a ramp leading to Interstate 65 near Hobart in 2010. His vehicle struck a service truck that was pushed into and killed Philip Amsden, who was changing a tire on a tractor-trailer at the time.

In Jeffrey A. Cleary v. State of Indiana, 45A03-1212-CR-518, Cleary was convicted of the Class B felony at a second trial. In the first trial, Cleary was convicted of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated charges but the jury deadlocked on the felony OWI causing death count. Cleary moved for a directed verdict, but Lake Superior Judge Thomas Stefaniak denied the motion and ordered a new trial.

On appeal, Cleary argued that the retrial violated his double-jeopardy protections, that a blood draw used to establish his blood alcohol content was improper and shouldn’t have been admitted, and that his sentence was inappropriate.

Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the majority that had judgment been entered on the lesser convictions after Cleary’s first trial, he would be barred from being retried. But judgment wasn’t entered.

“We do not agree with Cleary, however, that the trial court was required to enter a judgment of conviction, as opposed to ordering a new trial, upon the return of the jury’s verdict. Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-1(a) explains, ‘Except as provided in section 1.5 of this chapter, after a verdict, finding, or plea of guilty, if a new trial is not granted, the court shall enter a judgment of conviction,’” Barnes wrote for the majority joined by Judge Rudolph R. Pyle III.

“Quite simply, because a new trial was granted, the trial court was not required to enter a judgment of conviction,” Barnes wrote.

But Judge Terry Crone dissented, writing the trial court should have entered judgment after the first trial. “I find Cleary’s argument persuasive and believe that allowing the State to ‘keep taking a shot’ at a felony conviction against a defendant in Cleary’s position violates principles of fundamental fairness as well as the principles underlying the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy,” Crone wrote.   

"Cleary’s double jeopardy rights were violated, and therefore I would reverse and remand with instructions to vacate his class B felony conviction and resentence him accordingly,” Crone wrote.
 

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