Justices to review 181-year sentence imposed on Gary teen

The Indiana Supreme Court granted petitions to transfer in two cases last week, agreeing to hear a case concerning the sentence imposed on a 16-year-old murder defendant and a matter regarding a motorcycle crash involving a state trooper.

Justices first agreed to hear Donnell Dontrell Wilson v. State of Indiana, 19S-PC-548, in which a man convicted of murder he committed at age 16 was granted a new sentencing hearing for his 181-year prison sentence.

Donnell Wilson, whom the Indiana Court of Appeals determined was raised in an “urban war zone,” was convicted of murder after he shot another teen in the head. Wilson’s petition for post-conviction relief was denied, but the COA reversed, finding Wilson was denied effective assistance of trial counsel with respect to his sentencing. The COA remanded with instructions to vacate Wilson’s sentences and to hold a new sentencing hearing that complies with Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012).

Justices also agreed to hear Bryce A. Burton v. Martin Benner, et al., 19S-CT-549. In that case, the COA reversed a trial court’s summary judgment ruling for Indiana State Police Trooper Martin Benner after it found he had not been acting in the scope of his employment when he attempted to pass an oncoming motorcyclist on the road. In attempting to avoid a head-on collision with Benner, the motorcyclist sustained injuries after his bike left the roadway.

The Supreme Court unanimously denied 12 other cases, but didn’t agree on what to do with two remaining petitions. Justices Mark Massa and Geoffrey Slaughter voted to grant petition to transfer in Ladell Harold James Davis v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2876. The COA reversed in favor of Ladell Davis, agreeing that the state produced insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction for Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct by failing to prove that his conviction occurred within the statute of limitations.

In another split, Justice Steven David dissented from the denial of transfer with a separate opinion in the case of  Kevin Duane Jones v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-01320. Chief Justice Loretta Rush joined David’s dissent, arguing that a mistrial was required.

A full list of cases denied for the week ending October 4 can be found here.

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