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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ind. Decisions - More on: Supreme Court revises a defendant's sentence

Bryan Corbin of the Evansville Courier& Press has a story today about the Supreme Court's Dec. 1 decision in the case of Leonard Lamont Frye v. State of Indiana (see ILB entry here). Some quotes from today's story:

Eight-time felon Leonard Lamont Frye broke into an elderly woman's house in 2003 and stole her only television, as well as her musical rocking horse, cavalry sword, costume jewelry, perfume n and bacon from her refrigerator.

A jury found Frye guilty of burglary and theft and because of Frye's lengthy felony record, Judge Robert Pigman sentenced him to 40 years in prison.

But the Indiana Supreme Court has reversed Frye's sentence, finding it "inappropriate." In a 4-1 decision, the supreme court instructed Pigman to re-sentence Frye to 25 years.

Both prosecution and defense said such a reversal is unusual.

"Any time the Supreme Court reverses or changes anything is pretty much of a rarity," said the defense attorney from Frye's trial, Sonny Reisz.

"It was practically unheard of five years ago, whereas today it's not," Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco said, citing a change to appellate rules the Supreme Court made. Levco disagrees with the reversal. He said he will ask the Indiana attorney general's office, which handles appeals for prosecutors, to ask the court to reconsider its ruling. * * *

"As to the nature of the offense, there was no violence and there was marginal pecuniary loss," Associate Justice Frank Sullivan wrote for the majority, which included Chief Justice Randall Shepard and associate justices Theodore Boehm and Robert Rucker. Acknowledging Frye's "extensive criminal history," Sullivan wrote that Frye unsuccessfully sought treatment for alcoholism. "We agree with Frye that 40 years is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender," Sullivan wrote.

The court ordered Pigman to resentence Frye to 10 years for burglary and 15 years for being a habitual offender, a total of 25 years.

In a dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Brent Dickson chided the court for superimposing its judgment over Pigman's. Even though the victim wasn't home when Frye broke in, "this does not eliminate the enormous emotional impact and devastating sense of vulnerability and insecurity resulting from such a violation of the sanctity of a person's home," Dickson wrote. "Trial judges, not appellate judges, are in a far superior position to make sound sentencing decisions that are appropriate to the offender and the offense," Dickson continued.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 10, 2005 10:36 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions