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Killer’s 50-year conspiracy sentence vacated as double jeopardy

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The sentence of a man convicted of killing his ex-wife was reduced by 50 years Tuesday when the Indiana Court of Appeals granted in part his petition for post-conviction relief.

James R. Willey was convicted in the 1997 strangulation and bludgeoning death of Janice Willey in the garage of her Zionsville home. The state alleged James Willey had hired a friend, Roger Barnard, to kill Janice Willey, but Barnard killed himself shortly after her death, according to the record. A jury found Willey guilty of felony murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, conspiracy to commit burglary, involuntary manslaughter and burglary.

Willey was sentenced to 65 years in prison for felony murder and 50 years on the burglary conspiracy conviction, to be served consecutively for an aggregate 115-year term. His convictions and sentence were affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1999. On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals in a not-for-publication opinion Tuesday found persuasive caselaw since the crime and sentencing to lift the 50-year sentence.

“We reject all of Willey’s claims but one – his claim that his convictions for conspiracy to commit burglary and felony murder violate Indiana’s constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, and trial and appellate counsel were ineffective for failing to raise this argument,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel in James R. Willey v. State of Indiana (NFP), 06A05-1306-PC-268.

“In light of our Supreme Court’s holding in Grinstead v. State, 845 N.E.2d 1027 (Ind. 2006), we must agree, and therefore vacate his fifty-year sentence for conspiracy to commit burglary.”

Willey, now 69, is held in the Pendleton Correctional Facility. His earliest projected release date had been 2054, according to the Indiana Department of Correction. With the 50-year sentence lifted, he now would be eligible for release in 2029, according to DOC guidelines.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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