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Supreme Court upholds man's life sentence

January 25, 2017

An Elkhart County man who smoked synthetic marijuana then stabbed his girlfriend to death was unable to convince the Indiana Supreme Court that his sentence of life without parole was unconstitutional.

Michael T. Shoun was convicted of murdering his 17-year-old girlfriend in 2013 and sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in prison. Shoun appealed, arguing he has an intellectual disability and his punishment is unconstitutional under Article 1, Section 16 of the Indiana Constitution which provides that all penalties be proportional to the offense.  

The Supreme Court affirmed the sentence in Michael T. Shoun v. State of Indiana, 20S00-1601-LW-00061.

In an opinion written by Justice Steven David, the unanimous court dismissed Shoun’s contention that the Elkhart Superior Court should have sua sponte determined that he has an intellectual disability and is therefore ineligible for a life sentence. In particular, the Supreme Court noted Shoun’s own counsel withdrew Shoun’s motion for a hearing under the Disability Chapter after determining he could not meet the burden to prove Shoun had a disability that manifested prior to age 22.  

 Also the Supreme Court found the sentence was proportional to the crime.

Shoun was already supposed to be serving time for a habitual traffic offender conviction but had fled a work release facility to be with his girlfriend. He stabbed her so many times the coroner could not count the number of wounds and some of her organs were severed and removed. Moreover the medical exam found that the girlfriend was alive while the wounds were inflicted.

“Shoun’s (life without parole) penalty is not only based upon his status as a prior offender, but is also independently supported by the nature of his crime,” David wrote. “That is, he mutilated (his girlfriend) while she was still alive. …Again, the nature of the offense here is so severe that it cannot be said that the LWOP penalty is disproportionate.”

    
 

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