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Spotlight: North/Central Indiana

September 24, 2014
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Justices decline Kokomo mayor’srequest for stay of contempt order

The Indiana Supreme Court will not stay a contempt order entered against the mayor of Kokomo over construction at the Howard County courthouse.

The justices declined Sept. 8 to grant Mayor Greg Goodnight’s Appellate Rule 56(A) motion to stay the contempt order issued Aug. 26 by Howard Superior Judge William Menges. The contempt of court order said the mayor had given directions for a contractor to place concrete pipes so they blocked a courthouse drive and prevented county crews from getting the area open.
 

Menges’ order says the county asked the city’s construction project manager when the west entrance of the courthouse would be restored. The work on a trail that runs next to the courthouse had blocked access for transporting prisoners into court for hearings.

The order also says that Goodnight told the city engineer to order a contractor to place the sewer pipes in the drive “solely for the purpose of disrupting the regular proceedings of the court.”

Goodnight was taken to Menges’ office on Aug. 26 by a sheriff’s deputy and was allowed to go free once the pipes were moved. Goodnight was never placed in handcuffs or booked into jail.

Goodnight filed an appeal of Menges’ contempt order three days after it was issued. He also filed a verified emergency motion to stay the contempt order with the Indiana Court of Appeals, but the COA denied the motion.

Goodnight’s appeal remains pending before the Court of Appeals, in In the Matter of the Direct Contempt of Greg Goodnight, 34A02-1408-MI-592.

Elkart teens’ felony murder sentences amended

The appeals of three teens involved in a daytime home invasion that turned fatal gave the Court of Appeals a chance to examine the felony murder statute and its application for juveniles.

Two panels on the Court of Appeals handed down decisions Sept. 12 affirming the felony murder convictions of then-16-year-old Blake Layman, then-17-year-old Levi Sparks and then-18-year-old Anthony Sharp Jr. In October 2012, Layman, Sparks and 16-year-old Jose Quiroz decided to commit a burglary. They chose the home of Rodney Scott, which they believed was unoccupied.

The three called Sharp and 21-year-old Danzele Johnson to help them. Sparks served as a lookout as the four others kicked in the door of Scott’s home. Scott was upstairs and came running downstairs with his gun. He saw Sharp run out of the home and the other three remained in a bedroom. Scott fired several shots at the floor in an attempt to scare the burglars. He ended up striking Layman and Johnson, and Johnson later died from his injuries.

Johnson’s death led the state to charge the four teens with felony murder. Quiroz pleaded guilty and received 50 years in prison with 10 years suspended to probation. The other three were tried together and convicted – Layman and Sharp received 55 years, Sparks received 50 years; no part of the sentences were suspended to probation.

The panel hearing Sharp’s appeal unanimously affirmed his conviction in Anthony P. Sharp, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 20A04-1310-CR-501. The panel hearing Layman’s and Sparks’ combined appeal also affirmed, but was split 2-1. Both panels relied on Palmer v. State, 704 N.E.2d 124, 126 (Ind. 1999), in which the Indiana Supreme Court held that the statutory language “kills another human being while committing” does not restrict the felony murder provision only to instances in which the felon is the killer. It may also apply equally when, in committing any of the designated felonies, the felon contributes to the death of any person.

The defendants had argued that they were unarmed and no one who broke into the home had shot Johnson, so they could not be held responsible.

Judge Melissa May, in a concurring opinion in Blake Layman v. State of Indiana; Levi Sparks v. State of Indiana, 20A04-1310-CR-518, took issue with Layman’s and Sparks’ automatic waiver into adult court, which subjected them to the reasonable foreseeability standard that their actions were forseeably dangerous to human life.

“Subjecting a juvenile who did not kill or intend to kill anyone to a murder prosecution in adult court based solely on the premise it was ‘foreseeable’ to the juvenile that someone might be killed is problematic because juveniles do not ‘foresee’ like adults do,” she wrote.

She urged that Indiana courts adopt the “agency approach”: for a defendant to be held guilty of murder, it is necessary that the act of killing be that of the defendant, and for the act to be his, it is necessary that it be committed by him or by someone acting in concert with him.

Judge James Kirsch dissented in Layman, believing Palmer is not applicable in this case because the circumstances are different, so the felony murder statute was not properly applied.

Both panels ordered the three teens’ sentences reduced, pointing to their ages and that Quiroz, who pleaded guilty, received part of his sentence reduced to probation. In Layman, the judges ordered 10 years of Layman’s sentence suspended to probation and five years of Sparks’ sentence suspended to probation. In Sharp, the judges ordered the lower court to suspend 10 years of Sharp’s sentence to probation.

Purdue shooter sentenced to 65 years in prison

An Indiana man who admitted fatally stabbing and shooting a fellow Purdue University student inside a crowded classroom was sentenced Sept. 19 to the maximum 65 years in prison after telling a judge he lied about being mentally ill.

Tippecanoe Superior Judge Thomas Busch cited Cody Cousins’ lack of remorse, the viciousness of the Jan. 21 attack on Andrew Boldt and Cousins’ apparent pride in Boldt’s death in rejecting the defense’s request that Cousins be found guilty but mentally ill.

“That’s not insanity. That’s not mental illness,” Busch said, calling the slaying a “crime of hatred” and likening it to the biblical story of Cain and Abel.

Both Cousins and Boldt were teaching assistants in Purdue’s electrical engineering program at the time of the attack.

Prosecutor Pat Harrington said Cousins, who had struggled in some classes and left Purdue at one point, envied Boldt, whom witnesses described as a humble man and top student.

“Andrew was everything he was not,” Harrington said.

Boldt, of West Bend, Wisconsin, was shot five times, including three times in the face, and suffered 19 cuts as horrified students looked on.

“This is the worst homicide I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Elmo Griggs, the pathologist who performed Boldt’s autopsy.

Cousins pleaded guilty to the slaying last month. Defense attorneys argued that the 24-year-old Warsaw man was mentally ill at the time of the attack and asked that he receive treatment now instead of upon his release from prison.

Defense attorney Kirk Freeman said his client was “so sick, he may not know he’s sick.”

Cousins’ mother testified that there was a history of mental illness in her family and said she had her son hospitalized on a 72-hour psychiatric hold in the summer of 2013.

Cousins told Busch at a May 8 hearing that he was taking medication to treat schizophrenia. But he testified Sept. 19 that he lied to doctors about having auditory hallucinations.

“I killed Andrew Boldt because I wanted to,” he said.

Experts who examined Cousins said he didn’t show signs of mental illness the day Boldt was killed.

Boldt’s parents testified that they cry every day over the loss of their son.

“Every single day I think of how terrified he must have been, having that gun pointed to him,” Mary Boldt said during a statement she directed at Cousins. “It brings me to tears.

“Mr. Cousins, you blasted holes in many, many hearts.”

Cousins has been jailed since his arrest soon after the attack. He will receive credit for time served.

–Associated Press

COA orders judgment for Lapel in annexation lawsuit

The city of Anderson does not meet the requirements to bring a declaratory judgment action to challenge the town of Lapel’s annexation of land in Madison County that Anderson once considered annexing.

Anderson proposed annexing land on the southwest side of the city, but that plan did not move forward. Lapel then adopted an ordinance annexing 57 acres, some of which passes through the area Anderson originally sought to annex. The land is more than one mile beyond Anderson’s corporate limits and only a small percentage of it is contiguous to Lapel. The Lapel remonstrance was “super-voluntary,” meaning 100 percent of the landowners in the territory sought to be annexed.

Anderson filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against Lapel, claiming the territory is not contiguous with the corporate boundaries of Lapel, and the ordinance violates the Home Rule Act and is invalid and unlawful. The trial court granted Anderson’s cross-motion for summary judgment.

But this was an error, ruled the Court of Appeals Sept. 10 in Town of Lapel, Indiana v. City of Anderson, Indiana, 48A02-1403-PL-142.

At the time the ordinance was enacted, the only way judicial relief could be sought following an annexation is an appeal filed by a landowner whose property is located within one-half mile of the annexed property. As such, Anderson couldn’t file a remonstrance or appeal pursuant to the annexation statutes.

It sought declaratory judgment instead, but the only time in which a complainant has standing to bring a declaratory judgment action is in the case of fraud, discrimination, or wrongs so severe that the complainant’s substantial rights have been violated, the judges pointed out.

“In this case, Anderson does not argue that there was fraud or discrimination involved in the annexation. The only possible way in which it could have standing to bring a declaratory judgment action, therefore, is if it can establish that its substantial rights have been violated. The record reveals that the Territory is not within Anderson’s one-mile buffer zone, and as a result, Anderson did not have a statutory right to consent to the annexation.”

The judges also rejected Anderson’s claim that the Home Rule Act allows it to seek redress.

The Court of Appeals ordered the trial court to enter summary judgment in Lapel’s favor.

Goshen attorney appointed as city court judge

Gov. Mike Pence named Bodie J. Stegelmann as judge in Goshen City Court on Sept. 11. Stegelmann was a partner at Yoder Ainlay Ulmer & Buckingham LLP, where he practiced real estate law.

Before joining private practice, Stegelmann worked as an Elkhart County deputy prosecutor from 1994 to 1998. He is a member of the Indiana State Bar Association and the Goshen City Bar Association.

“With nearly two decades of criminal and civil law experience, Bodie Stegelmann has the expertise and passion necessary to serve Hoosiers well as Goshen City Court judge,” Pence said.

He replaces Judge Gretchen Hess Lund, who is running as a Republican for judge of Elkhart Superior Court 4.•

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