High court reverses habitual offender enhancement

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Because the state didn’t offer allowable evidence of a man’s previous theft conviction to support a habitual offender enhancement, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the enhancement.

In Thomas Dexter v. State of Indiana, No. 79S05-1106-CR-367, Thomas Dexter challenged his conviction of Class A felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death of the dependent and the jury finding that he is a habitual offender. He was sentenced to 30 years for the Class A felony, which was enhanced by 30 years based on his habitual offender status. Five years of his sentence were suspended to probation.

To prove Dexter had been previously convicted of two unrelated felonies – a felony theft conviction in 2000 and felony theft and residential entry convictions in 2005 – the state used a copy of the order entering judgment of conviction in the 2000 case that was not signed by the trial judge. The state also used a “rules of probation” form, the presentence investigation from the 2005 conviction and the testimony of a probation officer. Dexter claimed this was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of the 2000 theft conviction.

The justices found that the documentary evidence presented by the state was not sufficient to establish the fact of the alleged 2000 conviction.

“In view of our insistence that proper documentary evidence be submitted to prove the existence of a prior conviction and the important rationale underlying that rule, we hold that a judgment must be signed by the trial judge to constitute substantial evidence of probative value sufficient to sustain a habitual-offender enhancement. Accordingly, the unsigned order of judgment was not probative of the fact of Dexter’s alleged theft conviction in 2000,” wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

The high court also found that the “rules of probation” form, a presentence investigation report filed prior to sentencing on the 2005 convictions and the testimony of the chief probation officer for Tippecanoe County cannot support the habitual offender finding. But, double jeopardy principles do not preclude the state from retrying Dexter on the enhancement, the justices held.



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  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well