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Zachary's Law case could go to SCOTUS

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The Indiana Attorney General's Office wants the nation's highest court to review the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from last summer on a death-penalty case, which inspired Zachary's Law that requires convicted child molesters to register their addresses in a statewide public database.

Attorneys filed a petition for writ of certiorari this week with the Supreme Court of the United States in the case against Christopher M. Stevens, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1993 murder of 10-year-old Zachary Snider in Cloverdale.

Originally, the case was moved from Putnam County to Tippecanoe County and moved through the state's appellate system - the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence in Stevens v. Indiana, 691 N.E.2d 412 (Ind. 1997).

U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp at the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond also denied Stevens' claims for habeas corpus, but on June 18, 2007, the 7th Circuit set aside the death penalty unless the state offered a new sentencing hearing.

The three-judge panel - led by authoring Judge Diane Wood - held that Stevens' defense counsel should have pursued more mental health experts and evidence, but Judge Daniel Manion disagreed and wouldn't have granted relief. Judge Kenneth Ripple also wrote separately to say he would've taken relief a step further in that he thought the ineffective counsel also affected Stevens' conviction.

In his petition, Attorney General Steve Carter contends that the federal appellate decision ignored the state court's prejudice analysis and failed to defer to those decisions. Counsel isn't required to continue looking for experts just because one gave an unfavorable opinion, Carter wrote.

"The state courts explained that Stevens suffered no prejudice from any of counsel's potential errors in developing and presenting mental health evidence because the objective facts of the crime and Stevens' own confession 'strongly contradict' the notion that he was insane or impaired at the time of the crime," the petition states.

The court will likely make a decision about whether to accept the case by the end of its current term in June.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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