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Justices uphold death sentence

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The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld the sentence for a man sentenced to die for the 2001 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in southern Indiana.

A unanimous 21-page decision came today in Roy Lee Ward v. State, No. 74S00-0707-DP-263, affirming a sentence imposed after the defendant's second trial held before Spencer Circuit Special Judge Robert Pigman.

Ward was convicted for the rape and murder of Stacy Payne in Spencer County in July 2001. He'd pretended to be searching for a lost dog, and convinced the teenager to let him inside her house where raped her on the kitchen floor and then fatally slashed her body and throat with a knife.

The first trial resulted in guilty verdicts for murder, rape, and criminal deviate conduct and a jury recommended the death penalty, but those convictions and the sentence were reversed in 2004 because of pre-trial publicity. On remand, the parties agreed to bring in a jury from Clay County with a special judge holding the trial in his Vanderburgh County courtroom. The defendant pleaded guilty to murder and rape charges and the jury and judge issued a death penalty again.

Ward appealed on arguments that the Indiana death penalty statute is unconstitutional, that the jury wasn't property selected, that evidence from a warrantless search and photo evidence shouldn't have been admitted, and that the death sentence wasn't appropriate.

But justices rejected all of Ward's appellate arguments, including the photo evidence claim on grounds that the photos were gruesome but relevant to the case. Ward's attorneys had also argued that the 120 prospective jurors should have been questioned individually, outside the presence of other potential jurors, so that no one's answers would be overheard or influence another. Attorneys said jurors were ultimately lumped into groups of 10 or 20 and questioned, and they prevented Ward from getting a fair second trial.

"A trial court has broad discretionary power to regulate the form and substance of voir dire," Justice Brent E. Dickson wrote for the court. "Individually sequestered voir dire is not mandated in any case under Indiana law, including capital cases, absent highly unusual or potentially damaging circumstances. ... The defendant has not established reversible error in the trial court's modification of the format for questioning potential jurors in this case."

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard concurred in the decision to affirm, adding that he continues to believe that "there is less justification for appellate alteration of sentence than there was when judges (rather than juries) were the final deciders of sentence."

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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