ILNews

High court clarifies sentencing requirement

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled today that a defendant who was sentenced to death in 1982 cannot receive life without parole during his second re-sentencing hearing despite being re-sentenced under the post-2002 death penalty statute.

In State of Indiana v. Zolo Agona Azania, 02S03-0505-PD-364, Azania killed a Gary police lieutenant in 1981 and was sentenced to death in 1982. He was re-sentenced to death in 1996. His conviction stands, but his death sentence has been overturned twice. In the instant case, the state petitioned the Supreme Court to rehear its decision reversing a trial court order prohibiting the state from seeking the death penalty for the third time.

The state is asking for clarification of which version of Indiana's death penalty statute applies to the new sentencing phase. The state wants to sentence Azania under the current version of the death penalty statute - issued in 2002 - that in addition to adding the option of life without parole for murders committed after June 30, 1993, when a trial court judge receives a sentencing recommendation from the jury, the judge is to sentence the defendant "accordingly." Under the most recent statute, juries can sentence the defendant to life without parole, the death penalty, or a term of years in prison.

Life without parole is not an option for a jury to choose in Azania's resentencing because he was convicted of murder in 1982, before that was an option for juries. Azania's new sentencing hearing is to be conducted pursuant to the current, post-2002 death penalty statute. Under the 2002 statute, the trial judge will be bound by the jury's sentencing recommendation as opposed to just taking it in into consideration when sentencing. Whatever the jury decides, as long as the sentence is not illegal, the judge must impose, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

In a separate opinion, Justice Robert Rucker dissented in part, saying he believes if Azania is going to be sentenced under the 2002 statute, then life without parole must be a sentencing option.
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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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