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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues four more this afternoon

In Byron K. Breaston v. State of Indiana, an 8-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

Following unrelated criminal trials, Byron Breaston received habitual offender enhancements to his sentences. He was ordered to serve these habitual offender enhancements consecutively. Starks v. State held that it was improper for the trial court to order consecutive habitual offender enhancements at a single criminal trial. 523 N.E.2d 735, 737 (Ind. 1988). Smith v. State applied this holding to separate sentencing proceedings. 774 N.E.2d 1021, 1024 (Ind. Ct. 2 App. 2002), trans. denied. As such, it was incorrect to impose consecutive habitual offender enhancements in the present case. * * *

We reverse the trial court’s imposition of consecutive habitual offender enhancements, and remand this case to the trial court with instructions that the trial court order the habitual offender enhancement in this case to be served concurrently with the prior enhancement and to re-sentence Breaston in accordance with this opinion. No hearing is required. In all other respects, we summarily affirm the opinion of the Court of Appeals, pursuant to App. R. 58(A)(2).

In John D. Farris v. State of Indiana, a 5-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:
Breaston v. State [decided today], holds that consecutive habitual offender enhancements are improper where the enhancements arise from separate trials on unrelated charges. This case presents a somewhat easier question than Breaston: whether consecutive habitual offender enhancements are improper where the enhancements arise from separate trials on related charges. Precedent dictates that they are. Because John Farris’s counsel did not object to the imposition of consecutive habitual offender en-hancements and Farris’s sentence was improperly enhanced by 30 years, we find that Farris received ineffective assistance of counsel and is entitled to post-conviction relief.
From Tommy Pruitt v. State of Indiana, a 4-page, 4-1 Per Curiam opinion:
As discussed in our opinion, see Pruitt, 903 N.E.2d at 905, “[we] will disturb a post-conviction court’s decision as being contrary to law only where the evidence is without conflict and leads to but one conclusion, and the post-conviction court has reached the opposite conclusion.” Id. (citing Allen v. State, 749 N.E.2d 1158, 1164 (Ind. 2001) (quoting Miller v. State, 702 N.E.2d 1053, 1058 (Ind. 1998), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1083 (2000))). Our review of the PC court’s findings and conclusions do not lead us to an opposite conclusion than that reached by the PC court.

Pruitt’s petition for rehearing is denied.

Shepard, C.J., and Dickson, Sullivan, and Boehm, JJ., concur
.
Rucker, J. dissents: For the reasons set forth in my dissenting opinion in Pruitt v. State, 903 N.E.2d 899, 940 (Ind. 2009), I would grant rehearing, vacate the judgment of the post-conviction court, and remand this cause with instructions to impose a term of years.

In Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of J.M.; A.S. & A.M. v. IDCS, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:
This is the second case that we have decided in recent weeks in which we have held that the involuntary termination of the parental rights of incarcerated parents was not warranted. See R.Y. v. Ind. Dep't of Child Servs., 904 N.E.2d 1257 (Ind. April 24, 2009). The fact that we have reached such a conclusion in such close proximity is coincidence and not a reflection of any presumption as to the outcome of such cases. * * *

Our recent opinion in R.Y. v. Ind. Dep't of Child Servs. sets forth at some length the relevant constitutional and statutory framework, as well as the burden of proof and standard of appellate review, governing proceedings to terminate parental rights. 904 N.E.2d at 1259-61. We will not repeat that discussion here; the interested reader is directed to that decision.

In this case, the trial court denied the State's petition to terminate parental rights based on its conclusion that the State failed to present clear and convincing evidence that the conditions which resulted in J.M.'s removal would not be remedied or that continuation of the parent-child relationship poses a threat to J.M.'s well-being. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding the trial court's judgment to be “clearly erroneous.” In re J.M., 895 N.E.2d at 1236-37. Mother and Father contend that the Court of Appeals erred by failing to apply the correct standard of review. More specifically, they argue that the Court of Appeals (1) failed to make the determination that the trial court's findings (regarding Mother and Father's dates of release from incarceration and their ability to provide a stable and appropriate life upon release) were clearly erroneous before making its own contrary findings; and (2) failed to rely on the evidence most favorable to the trial court's judgment. * * *

We hold that [the] conclusion of the trial court is not clearly erroneous. We reach that result after examining the following four reasons that the trial court gave for concluding that there is a reasonable probability that the conditions which resulted in J.M.'s removal will be remedied and that continuation of the parent-child relationship does not pose a threat to J.M.'s well-being. * * *

There was evidence in the record to support the trial court's findings, and these findings supported the trial court's judgment denying the State's petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father. The trial court's judgment was therefore not clearly erroneous. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 16, 2009 02:49 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions