The Indiana Supreme Court has taken an Elkhart County appeal challenging three felony child molesting convictions and an 80-year aggregate sentence.
Justices denied four appeals at a private conference last week. The court granted one case, Andres Sanchez v. State of Indiana, No. 20A04-0912-CR-720, that the Court of Appeals ruled on in a memorandum opinion in mid-June. The appellate panel affirmed the Elkhart Superior judge’s decision on three Class A felony child molesting counts and the 80-year sentence. Issues raised on appeal were whether the prosecutor’s redirect questions to the victims’ mother and closing argument comments constituted fundamental error, whether the evidence was sufficient to support one of the child molesting counts, and whether the aggregate sentence was appropriate.
The panel found that Sanchez didn’t demonstrate that the harm or potential harm done by the prosecutor’s questions or comments was substantial enough to fall within the “extremely narrow exception” of fundamental error.
While the panel affirmed the evidence sufficiency and sentence, Judge James Kirsch concurred with his colleagues on all but the 80-year sentence review, finding the penalty was inappropriate and should be vacated. His rationale was that Sanchez doesn’t appear to be the type of “worst offender” warranting a higher sentence because the facts demonstrate that jurors could have easily viewed the man’s conduct as a lesser felony of fondling.