Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Ind. Decisions - "Judges must justify felony sentences; case tests new Indiana law"
The Indiana Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that judges sending felons to prison have to issue a sentencing statement that includes a reasonably detailed list of reasons for the sentence.
The decision came in the case of Alexander Anglemyer, a 20-year-old Kosciusko County man convicted of robbing and beating a pizza deliveryman in May 2005. * * *
The case was the first time the Indiana Supreme Court had the chance to weigh in on Indiana’s new sentencing laws since they were changed by the legislature in 2005.
Previously in Indiana, judges sentenced criminals by a guideline that provided a presumptive sentence but allowed the judge to add or subtract time for mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
For instance, someone convicted of robbery faced a presumptive sentence of 10 years to which 10 years could be added and four years could be subtracted.
But the U.S. Supreme Court – followed by the Indiana Supreme Court – ruled that any factors used to enhance a sentence have to be proven to a jury. That means judges can’t use additional information to add to the presumptive sentence without a separate jury proceeding.
To meet the new rules, lawmakers in 2005 passed Senate Bill 96, which removed presumptive sentences from Indiana’s system – leaving just the range of years for judges to choose from.
According to the law, a judge can impose any sentence “regardless of the presence or absence of aggravating circumstances or mitigating circumstances.”
The law also established the old presumptive sentence as a non-binding advisory guideline but gave far more discretion to the judge than in the old system.
The question before the court was whether judges are bound to provide any sentencing statement explaining the reasons behind a sentence, as three decades of court precedent have required.
Tuesday’s ruling reinforced the former practice, noting that sentencing statements help guard against arbitrary and capricious sentencing and provide a basis for appellate review.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 27, 2007 09:04 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions