Appeals court rejects bid to cut 120-year sentence in Gary double-slaying

A Gary man convicted of a 2003 double-murder failed to convince an appeals panel that his 120-year sentence should be reduced.

In Ernest J. Mance v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-1702, Mance appealed his sentence imposed in December 2004 after a Lake County jury convicted him of two counts of murder. The Times of Northwest Indiana reported Mance, then 24, was found guilty of fatally shooting Denise Weaver and her boyfriend, Troy Myers, while Weaver’s three young children were in their house.

Mance’s convictions and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, as was the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.

In August 2020, Mance filed a petition to modify his sentence, asking that his 60-year consecutive sentences be changed to run concurrently. He pointed to his educational achievements and meaningful employment while incarcerated, adding that he had not been subject to a prison disciplinary action.

Mance’s petition also noted that he had contacted Lake County prosecutor who had tried his case, Mary Ryan, and that she had not responded to his letter seeking her consent. That, he said, is evidence that the state consented and have no objection to Mance’s request.

The Lake Superior Court, however, denied Mance’s petition, finding that Ryan’s silence was not prosecutorial consent. He appealed that holding, relying on State v. Harper, 8 N.E.3d 694 (Ind. 2014).

The Court of Appeals, however, found that Harper did not apply to the facts of Mance’s case.

“Mance did not present evidence that the prosecutor’s office received Mance’s letter requesting its consent,” Judge Melissa May wrote in a Wednesday opinion. “Further, Mance has not cited case law to support his contention that the prosecutor’s lack of response to his letter constituted the prosecutor’s consent. Finally, the interactions between the trial court and the prosecutor’s office in Harper are not the equivalent of those occurring here.

“Additionally, unlike the trial court in Harper, the trial court here did not indicate its intention to modify Mance’s sentence,” May continued. “Thus, the trial court was not required to take further action – including notifying the prosecutor, ordering the Department of Correction to prepare the requisite reports, or holding a hearing. … We therefore conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Mance’s petition for modification of his sentence.”

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