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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides three today

In Jerrme Cartwright v. State of Indiana, an 8-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:

Jerrme Cartwright was convicted of attempted battery and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. In a divided opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for new trial. We granted transfer and now affirm the judgment of the trial court. * * *

In sum, Cartwright essentially argues that the State failed to meet its burden to demonstrate its strike of Bard was not motivated by discriminatory purpose. But the State had no such burden under Batson. The State was only required to come forth with race-neutral reasons for striking Bard, and it did so. It was Cartwright's burden to demonstrate that those reasons were pretextual. He has not carried his burden.

In Antwon Abbott v. State of Indiana, a 7-page, 3-2 opinion with a pro se appellant, Justice Rucker writes:
After a trial by jury thirty-year-old Antwon Leon Abbott was convicted of possession of cocaine as a Class B felony for which he was sentenced to the maximum term of twenty years. Based on the nature of the offense we revise Abbott’s sentence to twelve years. * * *

We emphasize however that Abbott’s offense was enhanced from a Class D felony – which has an advisory sentence of one and a half years, see I.C. § 35-50-2-7 – to a Class B felony because he was “in, on, or within one thousand feet (1000) of . . . school property.” I.C. § 35-48-4-6(b)(2)(i). However, but for the police officer’s choice of location in stopping the car in which Abbott was a passenger, he would have received no more than the maximum three-year sentence for his possession of less than three grams of cocaine. These circumstances compel us to conclude that although Abbott’s character does not necessarily justify a revision of his sentence, the nature of Abbott’s offense in this case renders his twenty-year maximum sentence inappropriate. We therefore grant transfer and revise Abbott’s sentence to twelve years – two years above the statutory advisory term for a Class B felony.

We remand this cause to the trial court with instructions to issue an amended sentencing order consistent with this opinion. The judgment of the trial court is otherwise affirmed.

Shepard, C.J., and Sullivan, J., concur.

David, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Dickson, J., concurs. [J. David's dissent concludes] The Court of Appeals also appropriately noted that “Abbott has ten convictions, including felony convictions for receiving stolen property, cruelty to an animal, and possession of cocaine. . . . Clearly, Abbott has not reformed his criminal behavior despite his numerous prior contacts with the criminal justice system.” For the foregoing reasons, I respectfully dissent.

In Joey Addison v. State of Indiana, a 19-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:
We grant transfer in this case to explore whether and to what extent a defendant's race-based Batson claim may be reviewed on appeal where at trial the defendant failed to rebut the State's proffered race-neutral reason for striking a black venireperson. * * *

The State's mischaracterization of Turner's voir dire testimony, its failure to engage Turner in any meaningful voir dire examination to explore his alleged undue reliance on the testimony of professionals, and the comparative juror analysis, when taken collectively, leave us with the firm impression that the State's proffered explanation for striking venireperson Turner was a mere pretext based on race, making a fair trial impossible. “Peremptory challenges based on race . . . require a retrial.” Highler, 854 N.E.2d at 826.7

Conclusion. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand this cause for a new trial.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 22, 2012 12:39 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions