The Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday slashed 105 years from a convicted rapist’s sentence, concluding the original 270-year sentence was far outside the norm for a single episode of conduct against a single victim.
Shawn Corbally broke into a Greenwood woman’s apartment in July 2012 and forced M.R. to engage in numerous sexual acts for two hours while making threats to harm her or her children, who were in the apartment. Her 1-year-old child was asleep in the bed with her when Corbally began assaulting the woman. She was able to identify Corbally because she saw his tattoo on his left arm depicting bricks. She also saw he was wearing cargo shorts and was able to see his face when he led her outside.
Police recovered his and M.R.’s DNA on the camouflage shorts they found in Corbally’s duffle bag. He was convicted of Class A felony burglary, Class A felony rape, four counts of Class A felony criminal deviate conduct, and two counts of Class B felony criminal confinement. He was sentenced to 270 years.
Corbally appealed in Shawn Lawrence Corbally v. State of Indiana, 41A04-1304-CR-175, on two grounds: that the trial court improperly allowed Greenwood Police Department investigator Patti Cummings to relate the contents of her interview with the victim, and that his sentence is inappropriate.
Cummings testified as to what M.R. had told her about the attack during an interview conducted the day after it occurred. Corbally’s attorney objected, arguing the state was asking Cummings to relate hearsay, but withdrew the objection after she told the court she could not stipulate to M.R.’s credibility.
The trial court erred in telling Corbally’s attorney that any challenge to M.R.’s credibility allowed the state to introduce prior consistent statements by her, the Court of Appeals held. The judges were skeptical of the state’s argument that Cummings’ testimony should be allowed because it was in some way related to the course of investigation work that led to Corbally’s arrest.
“Cummings almost completely rehashed the grisly details of the crimes as already testified to by M.R. Such evidence was entirely irrelevant to the course of the investigation, and it was not admissible as ‘course-of-investigation’ evidence. The trial court abused its discretion in admitting this evidence,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.
But, this admission was a harmless error, the judges ruled, as there is overwhelming independent evidence of Corbally’s guilt.
Barnes and Judge Elaine Brown chose to reduce Corbally’s sentence after looking at other cases involving similar circumstances. Barnes noted that the longest affirmed sentence imposed for a single episode of sexual violence against one victim was 151 years since the adoption of the “inappropriate” standard for reviewing sentences. The majority decided to reduce his sentence to an aggregate of 165 years after concluding his 270-year sentence is an “outlier” in need of revision.
Judge Margret Robb dissented without opinion regarding the sentencing issue.