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Monday, November 16, 2009

Ind. Courts - Supreme Court weighing use of tests in sentencing

A decision is pending in the case of Malenchik v. State, which was argued before the Supreme Court on Oct. 22, 2009. Here is a list of ILB entries on the case, which include the briefs filed with the Supreme Court.

Today the AP's Charles Wilson has a lengthy story on the issue presented by the case. It begins:

INDIANAPOLIS - A felon's friends and hobbies could influence how much time he spends behind bars if the Indiana Supreme Court upholds a lower-court ruling.

At issue is a type of psychological test commonly used by probation officers to assess whether an offender is likely to commit more crimes and determine the level of supervision and type of treatment needed. A Tippecanoe County judge cited Anthony Malenchik's high test score in sentencing him to six years out of a possible 7 1/2 for receiving stolen property and being a habitual offender.

Malenchik appealed, but the appeals court upheld the judge's decision. Now, the Supreme Court is considering whether such tests have a place in the sentencing process. It heard arguments last month and is expected to rule in coming months.

Supporters say sentencing should be based on scientific, objective data and the tests -- often called scoring models or risk/needs assessments -- measure that.

But critics say the test used in Malenchik's case -- the Level of Service Inventory-Revised or LSI-R -- isn't intended to be used to determine prison time. They also say some of its 54 questions -- which ask about leisure activities, friends, family, marital relations and income -- should have no bearing on a judge's decision.

"The fact that he has relatives in jail or lives in a high crime area should not be given any weight in determining the length of his sentence," Melenchik's attorneys argued in their brief. "He should not be more severely punished because he came from a broken home, he is poor, or he is dissatisfied with his parents."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 16, 2009 04:39 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions