ILNews

SCOTUS denies 2 Indiana cases

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take two Indiana cases, including one that inspired the law requiring child molesters to register their addresses on a public database.

In a list of certiorari denials released May 12, the nation's high court announced it wouldn't review the Hoosier cases Christopher Stevens v. Ed Buss, No. 07-7745, and Christopher J. Stephens v. Indiana, No. 07-9858. Both had been reviewed at the court's private conference last week.

Stevens is the case that inspired Zachary's Law. He was the man convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for murder of 10-year-old Zachary Snider in Cloverdale two years earlier. Originally, the case was moved from Putnam County to Tippecanoe County and progressed through the state's appellate system; the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed that conviction and sentence in Stevens v. Indiana, 691 N.E.2d 412 (Ind. 1997).

U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp at the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond also denied Stevens' claims for habeas corpus, but on June 18, 2007 the 7th Circuit set aside the death penalty unless the state offered a new sentencing hearing.

The three-judge panel - led by authoring Judge Diane Wood - held that Stevens' defense counsel should have pursued more mental health experts and evidence, but Judge Daniel Manion disagreed and wouldn't have granted relief. Judge Kenneth Ripple also wrote separately to say he would've taken relief a step farther in that he thought the ineffective counsel also affected Stevens' conviction.

In the certiorari petition filed late last year, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter argued that the federal appellate decision ignored the state court's prejudice analysis and failed to defer to those decisions. Counsel isn't required to continue looking for experts just because one gave an unfavorable opinion, Carter wrote.

"The state courts explained that Stevens suffered no prejudice from any of counsel's potential errors in developing and presenting mental health evidence because the objective facts of the crime and Stevens' own confession 'strongly contradict' the notion that he was insane or impaired at the time of the crime," the petition stated.

Now, the case returns to the trial level. Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said he heard from the attorney general this morning and said the process will now start for a new jury trial for the death penalty. Tippecanoe Superior Judge George Heid, who'd originally sent Stevens to death row, has since died and a new judge will be assigned.

Meanwhile, in Stephens, the court declined to consider an Elkhart County case that the Indiana Court of Appeals had decided in an October opinion, No. 20A05-0702-CR-95. The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer in December 2007, and Stephens filed a certiorari petition at the nation's highest court in March. The appeal involved Stephens' felony conviction for nonsupport of a dependent and touched on various issues, including his inability to pay and whether the trial court properly denied his challenge to a prospective juror.
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  1. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  2. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  3. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

  4. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

  5. Marijuana is safer than alcohol. AT the time the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was enacted all major pharmaceutical companies in the US sold marijuana products. 11 Presidents of the US have smoked marijuana. Smoking it does not increase the likelihood that you will get lung cancer. There are numerous reports of canabis oil killing many kinds of incurable cancer. (See Rick Simpson's Oil on the internet or facebook).

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