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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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