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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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