The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that retrials are not barred if a judgment of conviction is erroneously entered on a chronological case summary, letting stand a murder conviction after the retrial of a man charged with the death of his girlfriend’s infant daughter.
In July 2014, 9-month-old Aiva McGee was left in the care of Corey Bullock when her mother, Apryl Hammer, left for work. Shortly after she left, Aiva stopped breathing. The child, covered in bruises, was placed on life support. Tests showed that Aiva had sustained a “significant and severe brain injury with hemorrhages on both sides of her head and behind her left eye. Aiva died on October 2, 2014.
The cause of death was blunt-force injury of the head, and Bullock was later charged with murder and Level 3 felonies aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury in connection with Aiva’s death.
After a jury trial, Bullock was found guilty of aggravated battery and neglect, but the jury hung on the murder charge.
The Marion Superior Court then declared a mistrial to the murder charge and set a “pretrial conference” to discuss how to proceed given the jury’s verdicts. Bullock ultimately was retried in a bench trial and convicted of murder and neglect and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Bullock argued that the trial court entered judgment of conviction after the first trial, citing an entry of judgment on the CCS. He argued the state was therefore barred from retrying him according to the statutory double-jeopardy principles discussed by the Indiana Supreme Court in Cleary v. State, 23 N.E.3d 664 (Ind. 2015).
However, the Court of Appeals found that because the trial court did not actually enter judgment of conviction and had promptly removed the judgment entry from the CCS, the State was not barred from retrying Bullock on all three counts.
In applying Cleary, the appellate court referred to the Supreme Court’s explanation that a guilty verdict and judgment of conviction are “two rather different things.”
“In other words, a guilty verdict is only a significant legal event ‘if a court later enters judgment on it,’” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote Thursday in Corey Bullock v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1706-CR-1247. “Because the trial court had not entered judgment of conviction on the lesser included offenses, our Supreme Court found that retrial was permissible.”
The appellate court also found that in Cleary, the justices did not say that retrial is barred if judgment of conviction is erroneously entered but then quickly vacated.
It determined that Bullock’s argument failed because it found no entry of judgment of conviction after the first trial, noting that “the parties did not ask the trial court to enter judgment of conviction, the court did not orally do so, and there was no written judgment doing so.”
“But even if we were to treat the November 2 CCS entries as an entry of judgment,” Vaidik concluded, “the trial court made clear that it was a mistaken entry because it did not actually enter judgment of conviction, and Bullock cites no authority that would prevent the court from going back and fixing its mistake.”