ILNews

Enhancement not allowed for attempted crimes

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned a sentence enhancement for a man convicted of attempted rape. The enhancement was for being a repeat sexual offender, but attempted rape is not a crime listed under the repeat sex offender statute that allows for the enhancement.

In William E. Wright v. State of Indiana, No. 48A02-0708-PC-678, the Court of Appeals agreed with Wright that his appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance in regards to challenging the sentence enhancement and that Wright's petition for post-conviction relief should have been granted.

Wright had been found guilty of attempted rape, criminal confinement, and battery resulting in injury. The state also filed additional information, alleging Wright was a repeat sexual offender. On the day he was convicted, Wright's counsel got him to admit he was a repeat sexual offender.

Wright appealed his convictions, and the Court of Appeals had remanded to the trial court to correct the judgment because attempted rape and criminal confinement convictions had violated double jeopardy principles. The trial court sentenced Wright to 20 years for attempted rape and enhanced the sentence by eight years for being a repeat sexual offender. He was also sentenced to one year for battery causing injury.

Wright filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective trial and appellate counsel assistance because they failed to challenge his repeat sex offender enhancement. The post-conviction court denied his petition.

The Court of Appeals' decision to reverse Wright's repeat sexual offender enhancement hinged upon the word "attempted." Wright was convicted of attempted rape, not rape. Wright argued his circumstance is similar to that in Ellis v. State, 736 N.E.2d 731, 737 (Ind. 2000), in which the Supreme Court ruled that if the legislature had intended for a list of crimes of violence to include other crimes, then the offense would have appeared in the statute. In Ellis' case, he appealed his sentence under Indiana Code 35-50-1-2(a), the consecutive and concurrent terms statute, which did not list any attempted crimes under "crimes of violence." Ellis had been convicted of attempted murder.

Just like the consecutive and concurrent terms statute, the repeat sex offender statute doesn't list any specific reference to attempted crimes.

Judge Patricia Riley wrote that the Court of Appeals must apply the rule of lenity and conclude the crime of attempted rape isn't included as an offense under the repeat sex offender statute. Thus, Wright's trial counsel erroneously got Wright to admit to being a repeat sex offender and his appellate counsel provided deficient performance for failing to allege Wright's trial counsel was ineffective for this reason or to argue the enhancement was a fundamental error.

The appeals court remands to trial court to adjust Wright's sentence because if the trial counsel had effectively argued this point, his sentence would not have been enhanced.
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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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