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Supreme Court upholds life without parole sentence

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The Indiana Supreme Court has affirmed a man’s murder and robbery convictions and left in place his sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Jeffery Cain came to Indiana with Matthu Sanders to find work. While in Indiana, they met Sanders’ friend Clinton Daniel Hess. Hess had a longstanding dispute with Raymond Morrow, who owned and operated a flea market. Morrow was later found dead in his flea market and the state charged Cain, Sanders, Hess and Matthew Nelson with murder, intentional murder and robbery while armed with a deadly weapon.

Cain objected to Hess’ testimony at his trial. On appeal, he argues that Hess’ testimony should have been excluded and that the prosecutor made prejudicial statements during her closing argument at the sentencing phase of his trial.

Hess originally refused to testify at Cain’s trial, but the state secured his testimony after the first day of that trial in exchange for a drastically lower charge in his own case. Cain argued that this caused him unfair surprise and deprived him of a fair trial. The justices disagreed, noting that Hess was listed as a witness for the state and that Cain’s lawyer had adequate time to prepare for cross-examination. The trial court was well within its discretion to deny Cain’s motion to exclude Hess’ testimony, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard in Jeffery W. Cain v. State of Indiana, No. 17S00-1008-CR-684.

The high court also looked at the prosecutor’s closing argument in which she mentioned terms-of-years sentences and how they can be reduced based on participation in education and other programs. She said, “Now people that are convicted of murder are pretty much on the bottom of their list to give ’em deals. But they have a lot of power to do that, unless you sentence Jeff Cain to life without parole.”

“Inaccurate as the prosecutor’s portrayal of these programs was, it seems apparent that the level of intentionality in Cain’s conduct (that being the charged aggravator) was very high,” wrote Shepard. “We conclude that this single paragraph in a closing argument that ran to over seven pages of transcript was not fundamental error.”
 

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