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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ind. Law - A local view of Smylie v. State

Giving some local color to last week's Supreme Court decision in Smylie v. State, Michael W. Hoskins of the Johnson County Daily Journal writes:

Judges have lost some power after Indiana’s top court threw out part of the state’s sentencing structure and made it more difficult to extend criminal jail terms.

And it is thanks to a Johnson County case.

Local judges will now have to get a jury’s approval before extending prison time.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that parts of the state’s sentencing laws are unconstitutional and cannot be the deciding factor in determining if a convicted criminal deserves a longer sentence.

In the county case, the appeal of a man convicted of child seduction made it to the state’s top court and could open a floodgate of new appeals for lesser sentences and cause local courts to spend more money on recruiting jurors.

“This should be interesting,” Johnson Circuit Judge Mark Loyd said Thursday. “We’ll have to see how it affects our cases and juries, but I’m not sure what kind of effect this will have.” * * *

“This will be a great time and expense for the public,” Johnson County Prosecutor Lance Hamner said. “It requires juries to hear more evidence and deliberate again. That can get expensive and doesn’t even allow us to consider everything.”

Hamner said if someone shows a lack of remorse, he would have difficulty proving that to a jury and might not even know about it until after the trial.

The state Supreme Court reviewed the case of Adolphe Edward Smylie, 45, who pleaded guilty to two child seduction charges in Johnson Superior Court 1.

State law dictates Smylie could have received a 1½-year sentence on each count, with the same added or taken away based on certain factors.

Judge Kevin Barton sentenced him to two consecutive two-year prison terms. A jury did not hear any of the factors used to increase the sentence.

A jury should have heard the facts in that case, the state justices ruled.

“We hold today that portions of Indiana’s sentencing scheme violate the Sixth Amendment’s right to trial by jury,” Chief Justice Randall Shephard wrote in a majority 4-1 opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 13, 2005 10:16 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions