A man who received 50 years for murder should be re-sentenced because of conflicting amendments involving the penalty for murder at the time the judge handed down the sentence, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.
When Clifton Mauricio murdered a man at a car wash in 1994, there were two amendments on the books involving the penalty for murder. The first amendment set a 50-year presumptive sentence with a 60-year maximum and 40-year minimum. The second amendment set a 40-year presumptive sentence with a 60-year maximum and 30-year minimum sentence. The second amendment didn’t incorporate the first one. The statue was later corrected in 1995. The Supreme Court later held that the 40-year presumptive sentence was the correct one to use.
Mauricio received a 50-year sentence for murder in which the trial judge said giving him the maximum sentence was “real tempting” and that only Mauricio’s young age was a mitigating factor. The judge ordered him committed to the Department of Correction for 50 years, “the presumptive sentence” on the murder count.
His sentence was affirmed on direct appeal and his post-conviction relief petition on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel was denied. The Indiana Court of Appeals allowed him to file a successive petition, which the trial court denied and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
In Clifton Mauricio v. State of Indiana, No. 02S03-1009-PC-501, the Supreme Court reversed because Mauricio’s counsel should have clearly raised his sentencing claim on direct appeal that he was sentenced under the incorrect statute.
“To be sure, it is plausible that the trial judge could have intended to sentence Mauricio to fifty years for reasons unrelated to P.L. 164-1994. From this record, however, we cannot say that the trial judge clearly intended to sentence Mauricio to fifty years as a specific term rather than as the presumptive sentence. This is sufficient to meet the Strickland test on prejudice,” wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.
The high court remanded for re-sentencing. Chief Justice Shepard noted the trial court may use its discretion to impose any appropriate sentence when it re-sentences Mauricio.