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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, re sentencing

In Bryant E. Wilson v. State of Indiana, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice David writes:

When a defendant is convicted for multiple crimes arising out of a single course of criminal conduct, Indiana’s sentencing statutes provide trial courts with some discretion in ordering the individual sentences for those crimes to run consecutively or concurrently. Here, a defendant’s aggregate sentence was imposed in such a way that one of the individual sentences was effectively a hybrid—it was ordered partially concurrent to the other sentences, and partially consecutive.

Is this form of sentence permissible? Because trial courts are limited to sentences authorized by statute, and because the relevant provisions of the Indiana Code here do not authorize such a hybrid sentence, the answer must be “no.” We therefore remand this case to the trial court for resentencing.

In 1995, a jury found Bryant Wilson guilty of rape as a class A felony, criminal deviate conduct as a class A felony, and armed robbery as a class B felony. The trial court sentenced him to forty-five years for each of the class A felony convictions and twenty years for the class B felony conviction. The forty-five-year sentences were ordered to be served concurrent to one another, but the twenty-year sentence was split: fifteen years were to be served concurrent with the forty-five-year sentences, and five years were to be served consecutive to them. The result was an aggregate sentence of fifty years. * * *

We granted transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. Wilson v. State, 993 N.E.2d 625 (Ind. 2013) (table); Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A). We did not hold oral argument, but to supplement Wilson’s pro se brief we requested additional briefing from the Public Defender of Indiana and other interested parties as to whether the imposition of a partially consecutive sentence is permissible. We thank the Public Defender of Indiana, and Professors Charles MacLean, James Berles, and Adam Lamparello (collectively, “the Amicus Professors”) of the Indiana Tech Law School in Fort Wayne, for responding and providing their additional insights. [ILB: In this regard, see footnote 3 at p. 6] * * *

Chief Judge Robb was correct when she said that “sentencing is a creature of the legislature and [] we are limited to sentences that have been expressly permitted by the legislature.” Wilson, 988 N.E.2d at 1224. “[C]ourts are limited to imposing sentences that are authorized by statute, rather than only being limited to sentences that are not prohibited by statute.” * * *

It seems apparent that Wilson’s original sentencing court intended to give Wilson the maximum sentence possible. So it imposed the maximum penalties for each individual conviction, and in support cited a number of aggravating factors, including Wilson’s prior felonies and the fact that he was on parole when he committed the offenses at issue here. It then tried to arrange those individual sentences in a way that also maximized Wilson’s aggregate sentence. But in trying to accomplish this last step, it erred.

There are a number of ways that Wilson’s aggregate sentence of fifty years can be effectuated by the trial court on remand, if it is merited. Imposing a partially consecutive sentence for one of the individual convictions is not one of them.

Conclusion. We reverse the trial court’s denial of Wilson’s motion to correct erroneous sentence, and remand so that he may be resentenced for his rape, criminal deviate conduct, and armed robbery convictions. In doing so, the trial court may not exceed the aggregate term of fifty years that Wilson received in his original sentence.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 1, 2014 11:20 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions