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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

Here was the writeup on the Court's Nov. 23, 2009 oral argument calendar:

Walker Whatley v. State of Indiana - A jury found Whatley guilty of possessing cocaine in a quantity in excess of three grams within one-thousand feet of a "youth program center," a class A felony, see Ind. Code § 35-48-4-6(b)(3)(B)(iv). The Marion Superior Court entered judgment accordingly. The Court of Appeals reversed on grounds that Whatley had been near a church, not a youth program center, and directed entry of a conviction as a class C felony. Whatley v. State, 906 N.E.2d 259 (Ind. Ct. App. 5/24/2009), vacated. The Supreme Court has granted a petition to transfer the case and has assumed jurisdiction over the appeal.
In Whaley v. State, an 11-page, 3-2 opinion issued today, Justice Sullivan writes:
The Legislature has declared that if a person commits certain drug offenses within 1,000 feet of a “youth program center,” the penal consequences are enhanced. Defendant Walker Whatley committed such an offense within 1,000 feet of a church with an active youth program. The church constituted a “youth program center” for purposes of the enhancement. * * *

The opinion of the Court of Appeals is vacated. Whatley's conviction and sentence is affirmed.

Shepard, C.J., and Dickson, J., concur.
Boehm, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Rucker, J., concurs. [Justice Boehm's dissent begins] I respectfully dissent. Whatley was convicted of possession of 3.24 grams of cocaine. The penalty for this crime was enhanced from a C felony carrying a maximum sentence of eight years to an A felony with a maximum penalty of fifty years due to the proximity of Whatley's home to Robinson Community Church. The statute here provides for this dramatic enhancement of a sentence if the possession occurs:

(A) on a school bus; or
(B) in, on, or within one thousand (1,000) feet of:
(i) school property;
(ii) a public park;
(iii) a family housing complex; or
(iv) a youth program center.
Ind. Code § 35-48-4-6. Notably, this short list does not include “church,” “place of worship” or other terms that might much more plainly include Robinson Community Church. Nor is there anything in this record indicating that the exterior of the Church revealed the nature or regularity of its youth programs. * * *

[and concludes] The State makes no claim that the structure here was readily identifiable as a youth program center. Rather, the State argues that this enhancement applies irrespective of the appearance of the structure. Because I disagree, I believe the Court of Appeals correctly held that the enhanced sentence should be set aside.

Rucker, J., concurs.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 8, 2010 04:23 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions