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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues on today, re sentencing

In Otha S. Hamilton v. State of Indiana, a 9-page opinion, Chief Justice Shepard writes:

A jury found appellant Otha S. Hamilton guilty on one count of molesting a child, as a class A felony. The trial court imposed a sentence of fifty years in prison. We affirm Hamilton's conviction and revise his sentence. * * *

Here, Hamilton engaged in a single act of sexual misconduct as opposed to a long-term pattern of abuse and violence. Hamilton's criminal history contained only two convictions, both far removed in time from his current offense and unrelated to sexual misconduct in general. Hamilton's remaining arrests showed no known dispositions one way or the other, thereby diminishing their weight for sentencing purposes. Although he violated a position of trust, it was not quite one that rose to the level of a stepfather who had close, daily contact with a stepdaughter, and Hamilton's victim, although still young, was not of tender years. Hamilton's threat to harm the victim's grandmother did not involve a specific threat but certainly warrants some weight.

We conclude that Hamilton has made out an adequate case for revision. We emphasize that placing an instance of sexual misconduct along a spectrum of heinous to horrific in no way diminishes the seriousness of any particular offense or the suffering of any particular victim. Instead, it is a necessary part of maintaining the proportionality between sentences and offenses, and of treating like cases alike.

Conclusion. We affirm Hamilton's conviction but remand with instructions to enter an amended sentence of thirty-five years in prison.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 19, 2011 03:52 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions