ILNews

Justices uphold sentence, clarify previous caselaw

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Supreme Court accepted a case to address the proposition that relying on an element of the offense as an aggravating factor when sentencing is no longer prohibited. The justices believe that the Court of Appeals has applied this position too broadly.

Joshua Gomillia, while on drugs, decided with two friends to rob a house to make up some money lost while gambling. Gomillia picked the Indianapolis home and he and Lebronze Myles broke into E.K.’s home, sexually assaulted her and stole property and her car. Gomilla agreed to plead guilty to one count of Class A felony criminal deviate conduct and Class B felony robbery in exchange for his executed sentence being capped at 40 years.

When he was sentenced, the trial court commissioner cited in aggravation the circumstances of the crime and the terror Gomillia inspired in the victim. He received an executed sentence of 40 years. Gomillia argued those two factors cited by the commissioner are essentially elements of the offenses, so they cannot be used to enhance his sentence above the advisory sentence. The Court of Appeals cited Pedraza v. State, 887 N.E.2d 77 (Ind. 2008) in finding that relying on an element of the offense as an aggravating factor is no longer prohibited.

Since Townsend v. State, 498 N.E.2d 1198, 1201 (Ind. 1986), courts have relied upon the rule outlined in it that a material element of an offense may not constitute an aggravating circumstance to support an enhanced sentence. But in Pedraza, the justices said a trial court’s finding of the existence of an aggravating factor to elevate a criminal charge based on the same prior conviction is not an inappropriate double enhancement.

“Citing Pedraza in support several panels of the Court of Appeals have taken the position that trial courts are no longer prohibited from considering material elements of an offense when considering aggravating circumstances at sentencing. We believe this is too broad a reading of
Pedraza,” Justice Robert Rucker wrote.

Double enhancements aside, the justices held Tuesday that the use of a material element of an offense as a reason for the sentence a trial court imposes can be “improper as a matter of law” in some circumstances.

“[W]e have consistently said ‘the advisory sentence [under the current statutory regime] is the starting point the Legislature selected as an appropriate sentence for the crime committed,’” Rucker continued. “… under the current statutory regime the Legislature has determined the appropriate advisory sentence based upon the elements of the offense. Where a trial court’s reason for imposing a sentence greater than the advisory sentence includes material elements of the offense, absent something unique about the circumstances that would justify deviating from the advisory sentence, that reason is ‘improper as a matter of law.’ Nothing in Pedraza should be understood to alter this basic premise.”
 
But in Gomillia’s case, the nature and circumstances of the crime included the trial court’s discussion of the leadership role he played in the commission of these offenses, as well as the terror the victim suffered. Both are appropriate reasons for justifying a sentence greater than the advisory term, the justices held in Joshua Gomillia v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1408-CR-521.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

ADVERTISEMENT