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Judges revise murder sentence

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction of a defendant who killed a Bloomington man in response to a sexual assault, but found the circumstances around the killing warranted a lesser sentence.

In Michael J. Griffin v. State of Indiana, No. 53A05-1106-CR-288, Michael Griffin challenged his murder conviction and 55-year sentence for the stabbing death of Donald Belton. While at a Christmas party, the two were drinking and Belton allegedly sexually assault Griffin while he was intoxicated. Two days later, Griffin went to Belton’s house to confront him about the encounter and ended up stabbing Belton 21 times and sliced his throat.

Griffin asked the trial court to give a jury instruction on reckless homicide; it refused and only instructed the jury on voluntary manslaughter and murder.

Griffin argued on appeal that the state failed to negate the presence of sudden heat which, if found by the jury, would have reduced his murder conviction to voluntary manslaughter. But the evidence produced by the state negates Griffin’s claim that he was acting in sudden heat when he killed Belton, wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey.

He also argued that the jury could have found that he recklessly killed Belton but did not knowingly do so. The evidence shows that Griffin stabbed Belton 21 times and slashed his throat. He did not attempt to get help for Belton and fled from the scene. The nature of his conduct shows Griffin had to have some awareness his actions could result in Belton’s death, wrote the judge.

The appellate court decided to revise his sentence to 45 years given that the pervasive evidence is that the homicide was in response to a sexual assault, Griffin has no criminal history, and he received an honorable discharge and Purple Heart from the Marine Corps. They sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing.

 

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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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