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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. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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