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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ind. Decisions -One today from the Supreme Court

In Joshua Gomillia v. State of Indiana, a 12-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:

Under terms of a plea agreement defendant was convicted of robbery and criminal deviate conduct. Alleging the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the sentence defendant appealed. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. * * *

Gomillia appealed contending the trial court abused its discretion in imposing sentence. Specifically Gomillia argued: (1) The trial court improperly relied on evidence outside the record in imposing sentence, and (2) The trial court improperly found as an aggravating factor the “nature and circumstances” of the crime in that “the circumstances articulated by the trial court were essentially elements of the offenses.” Br. of Appellant at 4. The Court of Appeals rejected both arguments. On this latter point, the Court of Appeals cited this Court’s opinion in Pedraza v. State, 887 N.E.2d 77 (Ind. 2008) for the proposition that relying on an element of the offense as an aggravating factor is no longer prohibited. See Gomillia v. State, 993 N.E.2d 306, 310 (Ind. 2013). We grant Gomillia’s petition to transfer to address this proposition. In all other respects we summarily affirm the opinion of the Court of Appeals. * * *

Citing Pedraza in support several panels of the Court of Appeals have taken the position that trial courts are no longer prohibited from considering material elements of an offense when considering aggravating circumstances at sentencing. We believe this is too broad a reading of Pedraza. * * *

Where a trial court’s reason for imposing a sentence greater than the advisory sentence includes material elements of the offense, absent something unique about the circumstances that would justify deviating from the advisory sentence, that reason is “improper as a matter of law.” Anglemyer, 868 N.E.2d at 491. Nothing in Pedraza should be understood to alter this basic premise. * * *

Here the nature and circumstances of the crime included the trial court’s discussion of the leadership role Gomillia played in the commission of these offenses, as well as the terror the victim suffered. Both are appropriate reasons justifying a sentence greater than the advisory term. In sum, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing Gomillia’s sentence.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 12, 2014 11:33 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions