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Justices opt to resentence convicted murderer facing life without parole

October 4, 2016

The Indiana Supreme Court chose to exercise its “appellate prerogative” and resentence a convicted murderer  to a total term of 88 years in prison after the man appealed his sentence on the basis of a Sixth Amendment violation.

Robert Lewis was convicted of murder, murder in the perpetration of criminal deviate conduct, criminal deviate conduct as a Class A felony and resisting law enforcement as a Class D felony. He was sentenced by the Lake Superior Court to life imprisonment without parole on the count of murder in the perpetration of criminal deviate conduct, as well as an additional three years’ imprisonment for resisting law enforcement. The other counts were vacated.

Writing for the majority, Justice Mark Massa noted that the sentences were handed down despite the jury’s inability to decide if the state had proven its charged aggravating circumstance. An earlier appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the convictions but remanded the case to the trial court, which also affirmed the convictions.

Lewis appealed to the Supreme Court a second time in Robert Lewis, III v. State of Indiana, 45S000-1601-LW-32, arguing that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated because the sole aggravating factor supporting the sentence was not determined by the trier of face beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the second appeal, the state agreed to no longer seek a life without parole sentence. However, given the length of the sentences at issue and Lewis’ age, 43, Massa wrote that the Supreme Court chose to resentence Lewis to 65 years for murder, 20 years for criminal deviate conduct as a Class B felony and three years for resisting law enforcement, each to be served consecutively. The case was remanded back to the trial court to impose the Supreme Court’s sentences.

All justices concurred with Massa’s opinion.

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