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Habeas writ reverses resentencing from divided COA

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A Fulton County man who filed a writ of habeas corpus claiming he was falsely imprisoned won a reversal of a clarified sentencing order Tuesday, with one Court of Appeals judge saying he should be freed entirely.

In Derek Hale v. State of Indiana, 25A04-1301-CR-15, a majority of the appellate panel held that the trial court abused its discretion when it entered an order clarifying Hale’s sentence on a Class B felony possession of methamphetamine charge. The clarification by Fulton Superior Judge Wayne E. Steele added a year to the time Hale was ordered to serve on community corrections.

"To the extent that Judge Steele 'clarified' Hale’s sentence based upon his own recollection of what sentence he intended to impose, rather than examining the sentencing order and determining from it whether Hale was being detained illegally, we find that Judge Steele abused his discretion in ruling upon that petition," according to the majority opinion written by Judge Elaine Brown and joined by Judge Patricia Riley.

The opinion held that upon Hale’s completion of two years on work release he will have accumulated four years of good-time credit against his 10-year suspended sentence, transition to home detention and serve on probation thereafter.

But Judge Cale Bradford said in dissent that Hale had made his case. "Because I believe that Hale met his burden of proof of showing that he is being illegally detained in the Fulton County work release program ... and, as a result, is entitled to immediate release, I respectfully dissent," Bradford wrote.

"In the instant matter, Hale’s verified petition stated that he had been confined in the work release program for more than one year and that he had earned one day of credit time for each day served. The confining authority did not present a return containing any evidence that would disprove the statements contained in Hale’s verified petition. As such, Hale’s complaint was sufficient to make a prima facie showing that he was entitled to immediate release because he had completed his two-year term of confinement in the work release program," Bradford wrote.








 

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  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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