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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one (so far) today

In Randy Horton v. State of Indiana, a 5-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

Randy Horton was convicted following a jury trial of six counts of child molesting as Class A felonies and three counts of child molesting as Class C felonies. He was sentenced to an executed term of 324 years in prison.

Horton appealed his conviction on grounds that the trial court had improperly admitted certain evidence at trial. He also appealed his sentence on grounds that it constituted an abuse of the trial court’s discretion to sentence him to such a lengthy term and that the term was inappropriately long given his character and the nature of his offenses. The Court of Appeals rejected these claims and affirmed in all respects. Horton v. State, 936 N.E.2d 1277 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010). We grant transfer under Indiana Appellate Rule 58(A) to address the sentencing claims. * * *

In reviewing this sentence, we find the approach articulated in Cardwell v. State, 895 N.E.2d 1219 (Ind. 2008), to be helpful:

The principal role of appellate review should be to attempt to leaven the outliers, and identify some guiding principles for trial courts and those charged with improvement of the sentencing statutes . . . . [A]ppellate review should fo-cus on the forest – the aggregate sentence – rather than the trees – consecutive or concurrent, number of counts, or length of the sentence on any individual count. * * *
* * *

In considering the general guidelines enunciated in Cardwell and other cases involving ongoing molesting of a child in a position of trust by a defendant with little prior criminal history, we conclude that fully enhancing the sentence for one Class A felony to 50 years is warranted. In addition, we conclude that the particular acts that the victim was subjected to and required to perform warrants an additional term of 30 years. Finally, we conclude that Horton’s causing the victim to contract herpes warrants a second additional term of 30 years. Accordingly, we revise Horton’s sentence to an aggregate executed term of 110 years, as follows: Count I: the maximum term of 50 years; Count II through VI: the advisory term of 30 years on each count; Counts VII through IX: the advisory term of four years on each count; the sentences on Counts I, II, and III served consecutive to each other; and all other counts served concurrent with each other.

We remand this case to the trial court with instructions to issue an amended sentencing order and to issue or make any other documents or docket entries necessary to impose a revised sentence consistent with this opinion, without hearing.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 28, 2011 12:45 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions