Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David issued his first decision as a member of the state’s highest court, affirming a life without parole sentence in a murder case out of Hamilton County.
The unanimous 10-page ruling came today in Anthony D. Delarosa v. State of Indiana, No. 29S00-0911-CR-531, which stems from the April 2007 murders of Rebecca Payne and her boyfriend, George Benner, in her home in Home Place. Evidence at trial established that Delarosa from Zionsville was connected to Payne’s estranged husband, who had coordinated the shooting.
A jury found Delarosa guilty of two counts of murder and one conspiracy count. Delarosa left his penalty in the hands of Hamilton Superior Judge Steven Nation when waiving his right to a jury trial for sentencing. The judge imposed a life without parole sentence for the murder convictions and a consecutive 50-year sentence on the conspiracy conviction.
On direct appeal of the three counts, Delarosa argued the trial court erred in admitting certain statements he contended were hearsay, that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the convictions, and that the state committed prosecutorial misconduct in closing arguments about what Delarosa had said.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in May, about two weeks before Justice Theodore R. Boehm announced he’d be stepping down. Justice David succeeded him in October, and this is his first published ruling as a state justice.
Going through each of the appellate issues raised, Judge David wrote that the trial judge didn’t err and used specific caselaw on point for each issue. He wrote that the state’s evidence bolstered their case and that even the claimed error about admitting testimony didn’t make a fair trial impossible and doesn’t rise to the level of fundamental error. The record shows the evidence was sufficient to convict him on the two murders. Delarosa failed to preserve the prosecutorial misconduct claim, but even if he had the record doesn’t reveal he’d be entitled to any relief, Justice David wrote.