Conviction, sentence affirmed for man who fatally shot cousin

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The reckless homicide conviction and 12-year sentence given to an Indianapolis man who shot and killed his cousin as the two struggled for control of a revolver was affirmed Friday.

Dorvae Barnett borrowed the handgun from his cousin, James Chatman, as they planned to go to a birthday party. Later, the men began to argue and shove one another, and Barnett sat in the driver’s seat of a car with the gun in his lap.

Chatman grabbed the gun and pointed it at Barnett’s face, according to the record. Barnett then grabbed his cousin’s hand, twisting the gun away from his face. The gun fired, hitting Chatman in the face and killing him at the scene.

After a bifurcated trial, a jury found Barnett not guilty of murder but convicted him of the lesser included Class C felony reckless homicide charge. In the sentencing phase, Marion Superior Judge Mark Stoner enhanced the seven-year sentence for the conviction, adding five years for knowing use of a firearm in the commission of a crime.

The panel affirmed, finding no merit in Barnett’s arguments.

“Barnett wishes us to hold the facts herein could not support finding both that he knowingly used a firearm and that he recklessly killed Chatman,” Judge Melissa May wrote. “However, as Barnett himself notes, we rejected that factual argument in Cooper v. State, 940 N.E.2d 1210 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011), reh’g denied, trans. denied.

“That Chatman died from a gunshot wound inflicted as Barnett and Chatman struggled for control of Barnett’s gun was sufficient to prove reckless homicide,” May wrote. “The evidence was sufficient to support his conviction and the sentence enhancement.”

The panel also rejected Barnett’s claim that his waiver of a trial by jury during the sentencing phase was a violation of his Sixth Amendment jury trial right. “Barnett’s knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to jury trial as to the facts underlying the sentence enhancement invited any possible statutory or constitutional violation that could have occurred therein and are not grounds for reversal of his sentence,” the panel ruled in Dorvae Barnett v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1404-CR-283.


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