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Life without parole affirmed by Indiana Supreme Court

September 24, 2015

A Pike County man whose own expert witness raised doubts about his character failed to convince the Indiana Supreme Court he should at least be given the possibility of parole.

Christopher Helsley was convicted and sentence to life imprisonment without parole in June 2002 for the double murder of two co-workers. He appealed then sought post-conviction relief. In exchange for dropping his remaining post-conviction relief contentions, the state agreed to let Helsley have a new sentencing hearing.

The second jury returned with the same result of life without parole.

Helsley argued before the Supreme Court that his sentence was inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character. He asked his sentence be revised to a term of years under Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B) because he had a difficult childhood, suffered from mental illness and did not have a criminal history.

The Supreme Court did not find Helsley’s sentence inappropriate. It affirmed his punishment in Christopher Helsley v. State of Indiana, 63S00-1406-LW-440.

In support of their ruling, the justices pointed to the defense’s own expert witness, a clinical neuropsychologist who said Helsley was in a dissociative state at the time of the murders but was at a “heightened risk” to be “faking all of this.” The expert testified much of what Helsley said could not be corroborated and if everyone else says the defendant was loved and never abused, then the jury should “feel free to be very skeptical” of Helsley’s statements about his suffering from a difficult childhood and mental illness.

 Writing for the court, Justice Brent Dickson held, “The defendant's actions did not show restraint or a lack of brutality, and there was no evidence that either murder showed any regard for human life,” Justice Dickson wrote for the court. … We do not find that the defendant's claim of mental illness diminishes the gravity of his conduct in committing these murders. In addition, not-withstanding the alleged troubled childhood, mental illnesses, and lack of criminal history, consideration of the defendant's character does not warrant a sentence revision.”

 

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