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Judges divided over prison term for probation violation

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was divided in affirming a man’s revocation of probation and order that he serve 12 years of his suspended sentence, with the dissenting judge finding this decision will penalize his child who is relying on support payments.

Johnny Ray Jenkins challenged the determination that he violated the terms and conditions of his probation, claiming the state didn’t sufficiently show that he knowingly failed to pay court costs or probation fees. He didn’t challenge the finding that he violated probation by failing to timely report to the probation department, which on its own would be sufficient to support his probation revocation, noted Judge Edward Najam in Johnny Ray Jenkins v. State of Indiana, No. 48A04-1102-CR-64.

Jenkins admitted he didn’t pay the court costs and fees and was able to hold a job and set up child support for his child. Jenkins never pointed to any mitigating evidence on the record to explain why he hadn’t paid those obligations, so the majority concluded that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in finding he violated his terms of his probation by not paying the costs.

Najam and Judge Melissa May also upheld the order Jenkins serve 12 years of his previously suspended sentence, pointing to the fact that Jenkins admitted that he failed to pay the court costs and fees, he had not reported to probation for more than one year and he had four prior probation violations.

“Again, probation is a matter of grace, not a right,” wrote Najam.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented on the matter of the 12-year sentence, arguing for the trial court to impose an alternative sentence. She pointed out that Jenkins was able to get a job and set up child support for his child after he was released from prison.

“Returning him to the Indiana Department of Correction for twelve years, not only punishes Jenkins for improving his life while he was on probation, but also penalizes his child who is relying on the support payments,” she wrote. “Furthermore, indiscriminately sending him to the DOC for failing to pay some minimal court fees and costs without taking into account his undeniable rehabilitation, his employment status, and the contributions to his child’s life, will bring us onto the slippery slope of a debtor’s prison.”

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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