ILNews

Use of wrong statute requires reversal of dealing conviction

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. 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

  4. 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!!!

  5. 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.

ADVERTISEMENT