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Possible improper use of risk assessment in sentencing not enough for remand

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A man convicted of child molesting and incest will not get a chance to have his 99-year sentence reduced. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that even though the trial court may have abused its discretion, the sentence was not inappropriate.

In David Williams v. State of Indiana, 67A01-1302-CR-87, the Court of Appeals affirmed Williams’ conviction of eight counts of Class A felony child molesting and one count of Class B felony incest. It also affirmed his sentence to an aggregate term of 99 years.

Williams argued that the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing by not considering his lack of criminal history but, instead, finding his score on the Indiana Risk Assessment System to be an aggravating factor.

The Court of Appeals noted that historically the absence of a criminal history has been viewed as a mitigating factor. However, in Kimbrough v. State, 979 N.E.2d 625 (Ind. 2012), the Indiana Supreme Court retreated from that position.

There, the Supreme Court held the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to consider as a significant mitigating factor that the defendant had no prior criminal history. The Court of Appeals interpreted that ruling to mean since a lack of criminal history is no longer significant, the trial court is not obligated to give weight to that fact.

On Williams’ contention about the IRAS score, the Court of Appeals noted while the trial court did not directly state it used the score as a aggravating element, it did draw attention to the score as indicating Williams is at high risk of reoffending.

An evidence-based offender assessment score should not be considered as either an aggravating or mitigating factor or used to determine the length of the sentence, the COA asserted. And, to the extent that the trial court may have relied on the IRAS score, that was improper.

However, the Court of Appeals ruled it does not have to remand for resentencing because it did not find the 99-year term to be inappropriate.   

“Although we have the power to review and revise sentences, the principal role of our review should be to attempt to level the outliers, and identify some guiding principles for trial courts and those charged with improvement of the sentencing statutes, but not to achieve what we perceive to be a ‘correct’ result in each case,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the court.
 
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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