COA rules aggravating factors support consecutive sentences

A man who tried multiple times to get his sentence overturn was unsuccessful when the Indiana Court of Appeals found the precedent he was relying on was materially different from his situation.

Michael Dowdell was convicted more than 20 years ago of two counts of felony murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of robbery and three counts of criminal confinement. He was sentenced to an aggregate term of 160 years.

He appealed the sentence and the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing because it failed to find and balance the mitigating circumstances. On remand, the trial court resentenced him to a total executed term of 100 years.

Dowdell continued to push for a new sentence and then appealed the post-conviction court’s denial of his successive petition for post-conviction relief.

Before the Court of Appeals, he argued his appellate counsel had rendered ineffective assistance. In particular, he contended the trial court erred because it had ordered him to serve consecutive sentences even though the court had imposed presumptive or below-presumptive sentences on each count. He pointed to Marcum v. State, 725 N.E.2d 852 (Ind. 2000), which he asserted held that consecutive sentences in such circumstances are prohibited.

However, the Court of Appeals concluded Dowdell’s sentence is materially different from Marcum. The unanimous panel found Dowdell’s sentence is like the one the appellate court considered in Gleaves v. State, 859 N.E.2d 766, 770-71 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007). There it found that aggravating factors can predominate and support the imposition of consecutive sentences. Even if his appellate counsel had argued Marcum applied, the argument would have failed.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the post-conviction court in Michael Dowdell v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1604-PC-878.


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