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Monday, June 02, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides two, posted late today

In Martez Brown v. State of Indiana, a 10-page, 5-0 opinion, and one of two cases involving the same crime, Justice Rucker writes:

Martez Brown appeals his 150-year sentence imposed for two counts of murder and one count of robbery. Exercising our constitutional authority we revise Brown’s sentence. * * *

[In considering the sentencing under Rule 7(B)] The record in this case reveals two circumstances we find important with respect to the nature of Brown’s offense.

First, and particularly important, although receiving the same maximum sentence as his two cohorts, Brown was apparently found guilty of both murders as an accomplice. As the prosecutor noted in closing argument, “the evidence suggests and probably indicates [Brown] did not kill anybody himself.” Tr. at 409. “The evidence in this case suggests he probably was not [one of] the murderers. Not one of the persons that actually pulled the trigger and took a life himself.” Id. However, the prosecutor correctly contended: “[Brown is] still guilty under the theory of accompli[ce] liability.” * * *

Our second observation is that although senseless and reprehensible, the murders in this case were not particularly heinous. * * *

Brown was only sixteen years old at the time of the crime. We take this opportunity to reiterate what the United States Supreme Court has expressed: Sentencing considerations for youthful offenders—particularly for juveniles—are not coextensive with those for adults. * * *

Consistent with the Supreme Court’s reasoning this Court has not been hesitant to reduce maximum sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. * * *

Similar to a life without parole sentence, Brown’s 150 year sentence “‘forswears altogether the rehabilitative ideal.’” Miller, 132 S. Ct. at 2465 (quoting Graham, 560 U.S. at 74)). Indeed, Brown’s sentence essentially “‘means denial of hope; it means that good behavior and character improvement are immaterial; it means that whatever the future might hold in store for the mind and spirit of the [juvenile] convict, he will remain in prison for the rest of his days.’” Graham, 560 U.S. at 70 (quoting Naovarath v. State, 779 P.2d 944, 944 (Nev. 1989)). * * *

We affirm Brown’s convictions and remand this cause to the trial court with instructions to issue an amended sentencing order consistent with this opinion.

In Jacob Fuller v.State of Indiana, an 8-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:
In the case of sixteen-year-old Brown we employed our collective sense of what was an appropriate sentence and determined he “should receive an enhanced sentence of sixty years for each count of murder to be served concurrently and an enhanced sentence of twenty years for robbery to be served consecutively, for a total aggregate sentence of eighty years imprisonment.” Brown, No. 48S02-1406-CR-363, slip op. at 10. We believe Fuller is entitled to a sentence revision as well. But we are not inclined to revise Fuller’s sentence to be precisely the same, or even less than that of his cohort. Although only a year older than Fuller, Brown unlike Fuller was an accomplice—a factor that we found particularly important. Instead Fuller was one of the actual shooters. We conclude that Fuller should receive the maximum enhanced sentence of sixty-five years for each count of murder to be served concurrently, and an enhanced sentence of twenty years for robbery to be served consecutively for a total aggregate sentence of eighty-five years imprisonment.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 2, 2014 05:17 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions