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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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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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