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Judges find enhancement doesn't violate double jeopardy principles

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The Indiana Court of Appeals tackled an issue of first impression in a case involving double jeopardy principles. A defendant’s sentence was enhanced under the Firearm Enhancement Statute following a conviction for reckless homicide.

In John G. Cooper v. State of Indiana, No. 32A05-1005-CR-309, John Cooper challenged his aggregate 13-year sentence for reckless homicide, which included a five-year enhancement under the Firearm Enhancement Statute. Cooper was convicted of Class C felony reckless homicide and the jury determined the state proved the firearm enhancement beyond a reasonable doubt. He claimed the evidence was insufficient to support the enhancement and that double jeopardy principles bar the enhancement because the conviction and enhancement were based on the single act of killing Michael Gelinas with a firearm.

Cooper suspected his wife was having an affair with Gelinas and purchased a shotgun and shells several days before confronting Gelinas at his home. An altercation ensued and Gelinas was shot and killed while he and Cooper wrestled. Cooper claimed he went to the home just to scare Gelinas.

The appellate judges affirmed there was sufficient evidence to support the enhancement, finding the state was able to prove Cooper knowingly or intentionally used a firearm to commit a reckless act.

In addressing the double jeopardy issue, the judges had to look to other jurisdictions for guidance because no Indiana court has squarely addressed this issue. Several of those jurisdictions have concluded that firearm sentencing enhancements similar to Indiana’s don’t raise double jeopardy concerns because the enhancement is merely a cumulative punishment rather than a separate offense, wrote Judge John Baker.

“We agree with those jurisdictions recognizing that sentencing enhancements are not offenses for double jeopardy purposes in circumstances such as the one before us. Indeed, the Firearm Enhancement Statute only prescribes an additional penalty for felonies that are committed with the use of a firearm,” he wrote.

Judge Baker also pointed to Joshua Nicoson v. State of Indiana, No. 32S04-1003-CR-150, in which a split Indiana Supreme Court recently held that state statute says that the use of a firearm can be the grounds for a sentence enhancement and doesn’t violate double jeopardy. Joshua Nicoson received a five-year sentence enhancement on one of his convictions of confinement with a deadly weapon.

“Again, Cooper was convicted of a single offense, for which the legislature has specifically provided a harsher penalty based on the use of a firearm. And even though the jury relied upon Cooper’s use of the shotgun for both the underlying offense and the enhancement, the legislature’s intent is clear that criminal offenses committed with firearms are to receive additional punishment,” he wrote.

The judges also affirmed Cooper’s aggregate 13-year sentence, finding it to be appropriate given the nature of the offense and his character.
 

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  • BS
    If he received punisment for a single crime and additional punishment (enhancement) for the same single crime, that certainly is double jeopardy. The courts can use any and all of the ambiguous language they choose to try to make their illegal, unconstitutional BS appear to be correct, when anyone but a lunatic knows better!
  • Law,
    This is baloney, however the courts have opened pandora's box, if they can use law from other jurisdictions so can defendants!
  • bullets?
    "Cooper . . . purchased a shotgun and bullets."
    Actually, he purchased a shotgun and shells. Bullets are not compatible with a shotgun. A shotgun fires shells, birdshot or buckshot, or slugs.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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