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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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