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Split court upholds man’s conviction for conspiracy to commit robbery

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Citing an issue of first impression, the majority on the Indiana Supreme Court Tuesday concluded that a man could be convicted of Class A felony conspiracy to commit robbery even though the targeted victim was not robbed or harmed in any way.

Kenyatta Erkins and Ugbe Ojile staked out an Indiana casino to find a person to rob. Erkins’ phone was being monitored by police because they believed the men had committed more than 25 robberies involving victims who had won money at a casino. Ojile went inside the casino, found a target, and called Erkins giving him updates. The man decided to stay the night at the casino, so Erkins and Ojile decide to wait until he left to rob him. They discussed over the phone their plans, which included saying the target may be a “problem” and they might “rough him up.”

The next day, police stopped them in Erkins’ car and found several items, including guns, camouflage clothing and duct tape. The two were charged with Class A felony conspiracy to commit robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and Class A felony attempt to commit robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. The men claimed the conspiracy charge cannot stand because there is insufficient evidence to support it because no actual injury to the targeted victim occurred.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, as did the majority of Justices Steven David, Mark Massa and Loretta Rush in Kenyatta Erkins v. State of Indiana, 58S01-1309-CR-586.

“It may be helpful to think of conspiracy to commit robbery resulting in serious bodily injury as consisting of effectively two ‘mini-conspiracies’ within one crime: a conspiracy to commit robbery and a conspiracy to commit serious bodily injury in the course of the robbery. Each ‘mini-conspiracy’ requires the State to establish intent, agreement, and the commission of an overt act in furtherance of the agreement,” Justice David wrote.

But in Justice Robert Rucker’s dissent – to which Chief Justice Brent Dickson joined – Rucker finds David’s view of “mini-conspiracies” to be an inappropriate analogy because it requires treating the bodily injury component as an element of the crime. But serious bodily injury is not an element of robbery and thus not an element of conspiracy, he wrote. It is a penalty enhancement that increases the class of the offense that kicks in only where the offense “results in serious bodily injury.”
 
“[T]he result the majority reaches today creates something of an anomaly. Codefendants who combine their efforts to rob a victim can have their sentences enhanced only upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt that their conduct resulted in bodily injury or serious bodily injury. By contrast, if those same codefendants conspire to rob a victim, and engage in the exact same conduct, their sentences may be enhanced even if bodily injury never occurs. With such a lethal weapon at its disposal why would the State ever charge a simple robbery offense? This is not a result our Legislature could have intended,” Rucker wrote.

The justices did all agree that the trial court did not err in permitting the state’s amendment to the charging information of Erkins during the second day of trial. The information originally said Erkins was conducting surveillance in the casino on the victim, but it was amended to put Ojile’s name. The particular identity of the co-conspirator performing the overt act is not essential to making a valid conspiracy charge, so the amendment was one of form and not substance, David wrote.





 

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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