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Judges affirm 65-year murder sentence

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Nothing about the defendant’s “extremely violent character” merited the Indiana Court of Appeals to reduce his murder sentence, the appellate judges ruled Friday.

James Lee Paul was convicted and sentenced to 65 years for the murder of Charles Burns Jr.

Paul and Richard Wroten went to Burns’ home, where Paul beat the sleeping man in the head with a crowbar as many as 60 times. Paul had a feud with Burns’ father over Paul’s personal property.

After the murder, Paul and Wroten washed themselves up and Paul threatened Wroten not to call the cops. Later that night, Wroten told police about what happened and where they could find Paul. The police did not know which apartment was Paul’s, but saw him through an open apartment door, working on Burns’ bicycle. Police did not have a search warrant when they announced themselves, entered his apartment, and arrested Paul. After securing a search warrant, police confiscated the bicycle and a backpack containing bloody clothes and the murder weapon.

Paul claimed the trial court’s decision to not suppress the evidence violated the Fourth Amendment. The COA found the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence because the police found themselves in a situation where they saw Paul, whom they had probable cause to believe he just committed a vicious murder, while the police where standing on an exposed stairway.

“Not knowing whether Paul had a weapon and could cause them or tenants harm if they tried to retreat down the exposed stairway, the officers made the arrest. Furthermore, at the time the officers observed Paul from the stairs, he appeared to be tampering with Burns’ bicycle, which was a major piece of evidence in the case,” wrote Judge Carr Darden. “We cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion as the danger to the officers and tenants, coupled with the tampering of evidence, was an exigent circumstance that made it impracticable for the officers to obtain an arrest warrant before making the arrest.”

The judges declined to revise his sentence, citing Paul’s “gory act” of repeatedly beating Burns’ as he slept.

 

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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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