Justices leave man’s life sentence intact

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The Indiana Supreme Court Wednesday upheld a Lake County man’s sentence of life in prison without parole for the murder of a co-worker during a robbery. Ronnie Jamel Rice claimed the trial court improperly relied on non-statutory aggravators when imposing his sentence.

Lake Superior Judge Diane Ross Boswell imposed the sentence after Rice pleaded guilty to murder, murder in the perpetration of a robbery and robbery. He appealed directly to the Supreme Court, which ordered Boswell to revise the sentencing order to comport with prior caselaw and clarify whether she relied on non-capital aggravators when imposing the sentence.

Boswell issued a revised sentence order of life without parole in March 2013, leading to this appeal.

Rice claimed the revised sentencing order is also deficient because the same factors impermissibly relied upon in the original order are also in the revised order. He argued the factors – the nature of the offense, the totality of the circumstances, and the character assessment of Rice – were merely cut from the section in the first order labeled “Aggravating Circumstances” and pasted into the section labeled “Mitigators” in the subsequent order, where Rice said they serve as “mitigation-neutralizers.”

The main issue before the justices was whether the extraneous language from Finding 7 of the revised order is an evaluation and balancing of the mitigating and aggravating circumstances in determination of the sentence as required by Harrison v. State, 644 N.E.2d 1243, 1262 (Ind. 1995),  or if it describes impermissible non-statutory aggravators.

“In this case, we believe the trial court did not use non-statutory aggravators. The language Rice challenges, rather than providing reasons to improperly increase Rice’s sentence, demonstrates the trial judge’s thought process as she evaluated and balanced the mitigating factors against the lone aggravating factor. It was the trial judge’s attempt at a reasonably detailed recitation of her reasons for imposing a sentence,” Justice Mark Massa wrote in Ronnie Jamel Rice v. State of Indiana, 45S00-1206-CR-343.  

Rice also asked the court to revise his sentence to a term of years, but the justices declined as they were not convinced that either the brutal nature of the attack on Rice’s co-worker or Rice’s character warrants a revision.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.