ILNews

Judge takes on death penalty decision

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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In the week ahead, an Evansville judge could be the first Hoosier jurist to hand down a death sentence since state law changed in 2002.

Vanderburgh Circuit Judge Carl Heldt is scheduled to conduct a sentencing hearing Friday morning for Daniel Ray Wilkes, who jurors convicted last month on three counts of murder for the April 2006 slayings of an Evansville mother and her two daughters, ages 13 and 8.

While they agreed on the guilt phase of the trial, jurors came back deadlocked 11-1 on the penalty Wilkes should face for the crimes. Judge Heldt, who's been on the bench for almost a decade, will pick up that decision.

The change that took effect six years ago requires a judge to follow a jury's sentencing recommendation, which in this case would mean unsealing verdict forms jurors had completed before announcing the impasse. Prior to the law change, judges only needed to consider the jury's recommendation and could enter a different penalty in a capital case.

A judge has not been called to do this since the change, according to Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart, who tracks death penalty cases and runs a Web site on them at http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/death.htm.

This case could hinge on what jurors pointed out about aggravators, Stewart said. During the penalty phase, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco pointed to aggravators as being the multiple murders and one victim being younger than 12.

Because there wasn't a unanimous penalty phase ruling, Stewart said jurors may not have determined any aggravating circumstances existed. However, jurors may have done that by unanimously agreeing on the conviction for the three murders, thereby showing that those aggravators exist, he said.
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  1. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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