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High court grants transfers with opinions

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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer with opinion to two cases today and granted transfer to another, which it remanded to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The high court issued opinions in Louis Richard Harris v. State, No. 48S02-0812-CR-637, in which Louis Richard Harris appealed his 100-year sentence for child molesting; and in Ky Morton v. Jerome P. Ivacic, No. 71S03-0708-CV-386, a tenant/landlord dispute from small claims court.

In Harris, the Supreme Court revised Harris' 50-year sentence each on two counts of child molesting to be served consecutively and ordered they be served concurrently. Harris was convicted of molesting his girlfriend's 11-year-old daughter to whom he was a father figure.

Harris had committed the crimes before the Indiana legislature amended the state's sentencing statute, so the presumptive sentencing scheme applies in his case. Under this scheme, a Class A felony child-molesting conviction had a standard sentence of 30 years, with no more than 20 years added for aggravating circumstances or more than 10 years subtracted for mitigating circumstances.

The trial court identified three aggravating circumstances but didn't explain why they warranted consecutive sentences instead of enhanced concurrent sentences, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan. The justices found Harris' previous convictions of traffic violations and theft aren't significant aggravators in relation to his child-molesting charges. The aggravating circumstances warrant imposing an enhanced sentence for child molesting, but not consecutive sentences, Justice Sullivan wrote. The high court remanded with instructions to issue an amended sentencing order or make any other documents or docket entries necessary to impose a revised sentence consistent with this opinion, without a hearing.

In Morton v. Ivacic, the Supreme Court reversed the Small Claims Division of St. Joseph Superior Court order of immediate possession of a rental property to Jerome Ivacic, the landlord of Ky Morton. Morton fell behind in his rent for several months but had paid it back at the time of the court hearing and didn't believe he should be evicted.

The justices ruled Morton attempted to provide the court with testimony and a notarized affidavit and other documentation in his defense against charges levied by Ivacic, but the court denied Morton due process. The transcript of the hearing appears to indicate from the beginning an expectation that Ivacic was entitled to an order of immediate possession, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

"Even taking into account for the informality of the small claims process, Morton was not given an adequate opportunity to say yes or no to any of Ivacic's allegations at the prejudgment hearing," he wrote.

The Supreme Court also granted transfer with a remand to the Court of Appeals in the post-conviction appeal of Raphael Miles v. State, 82A01-0711-PC-529.

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