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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. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  2. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  3. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  4. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  5. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

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