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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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