ILNews

Use of wrong statute requires reversal of dealing conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a Class A felony conviction of dealing in cocaine because the trial court instructed the jury on an incorrect version of the statute that allows for enhancing dealing convictions.

Leroy Jones challenged his conviction of Class A felony dealing in cocaine as well as his sentence for that conviction and a Class B felony conviction of dealing in cocaine. Jones sold cocaine in a controlled buy to a confidential informant in May 2006 – once at the Greentree West Apartments and once at a gas station.

In November 2006, he was charged with the dealing counts and later convicted after a jury trial. He was sentenced to 35 years on the Class A felony and 15 years on the Class B felony to be served consecutively.

Jones argued his Class A felony dealing conviction should be reduced to a Class B felony because the jury was incorrectly instructed on the statutory definition of the offense of dealing within 1,000 feet of a family housing complex. The instruction used a definition of “family housing complex” that wasn’t in effect at the time of the offense: that it means a building or series of buildings that is operated as an apartment complex.

This definition wasn’t added until July 2006, after he committed his crimes. The version in effect at the time he dealt the cocaine defined it as a series of buildings owned by a governmental unit or political subdivision, contains at least 12 dwelling units, and where children are or are likely to live.

In Leroy Jones v. State of Indiana, No. 27A02-1002-CR-168, the Court of Appeals found the application of the revised statute violated the prohibition against ex post facto laws. The state didn’t prove that Greentree was a family housing complex even under the former version of the statute. Testimony from the apartment complex’s maintenance supervisor established there were 90 units, and that young families lived there. However, there was no evidence that the apartments were owned by a governmental unit or political subdivision, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

“Accordingly, because the trial court erroneously instructed the jury as to the meaning of “family housing complex”, Jones’s dealing conviction under Count 1 was enhanced via a statute that, after the acts were committed, changed the elements of the crime of which he was charged. This violates the prohibition against ex post facto laws and therefore constitutes fundamental error,” he wrote.

The judges ordered Jones’ Class A felony conviction reduced to a Class B felony. They also found consecutive sentences to be inappropriate and remanded for re-sentencing based on the principles in the opinion.
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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