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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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  1. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  2. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  3. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

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  5. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

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