Justices: sentence shouldn't have been upped on appeal

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The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered that a man’s sentence be reduced after the lower appellate court increased it on appeal.

The justices summarily affirmed the Indiana Court of Appeals ruling affirming the admission of pornographic materials and the admission of evidence of Jeffrey Akard’s silence after his arrest but before being read his rights.

Akard was convicted of two counts of Class A felony rape, one count of Class B felony rape, two counts of Class A felony criminal deviate conduct, one count of Class B felony criminal deviate conduct, two counts of Class B felony criminal confinement, and two counts of Class C felony battery for committing a series of violent sexual crimes against an adult woman over several hours.

The trial court sentenced him to an aggregate term of 93 years, accepting the state’s recommended sentence. The trial court ordered the sentences for each count within the group of like offenses to be served concurrently but served consecutively to each of the other groups.

On appeal before the Court of Appeals, the judges decided to increase his sentence because of the heinous, violent acts he committed against the victim. They upheld their decision on rehearing. It was noted at oral arguments before the Indiana Supreme Court on this case that the increase was the first time the Court of Appeals has increased a sentence on appeal. The justices established a standard for sentence revisions in McCullough v. State, 900 N.E.2d 745, 746 (Ind. 2009).

Even though an appellate court has the ability to affirm, reduce or increase a sentence on appeal, the justices concluded that Akard’s original sentence should remain, with one minor change. His sentence on the battery charges should have been two years each, instead of one year, so correcting this increases Akard’s aggregate sentence to 94 years.

“Although the defendant's raising of sentence reasonableness on appeal authorizes appellate consideration of whether the assigned sentence is inappropriately stern or lenient, we decline to increase the sentence here, particularly in the context of the State's request for no greater sentence at trial and its assertion on appeal that such is an appropriate sentence. These are strong indicators that the trial court sentence is not inappropriately lenient,” wrote Justice Brent Dickson in Jeffrey E. Akard v. State of Indiana, No. 79S02-1009-CR-478.  

The case was remanded for sentence modification.


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