Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today
In Curtis A. Bethea v. State of Indiana, a 14-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice David writes:
In his Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, Curtis Bethea argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to challenge the aggravating factors used by the trial court in determining his sentence. Specifically, he claims a trial court cannot aggravate a defendant’s sentence with an essential element of a charge that was dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement. We hold that the trial court finding that the injury suffered by the victim to be an aggravating factor was proper despite the plea agreement that dismissed that count. * * *
A plea agreement is voluntarily entered into between the State and the Defendant. It is a contract and when accepted by the trial court is binding. The parties are free to negotiate the terms and conditions of the plea agreement, and can agree to limit or otherwise exclude what may be considered by the trial court judge. Unless the evidence is forbidden by terms of the plea agreement, the trial court judge may consider all evidence properly before him. Therefore, we hold that Hammons does not apply to cases involving plea agreements. The post-conviction court is affirmed.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 12, 2013 10:39 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions