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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Ind. Decisions - "Appeals court rules judges can ignore complicated law"

Dan Carden of the NWI Times reported this weekend on the Aug. 9, 2016 Court of Appeals decision in Edgardo A. Henriquez v. State of Indiana.

Here is the ILB summary of the 2-1 opinion from Aug. 9, where the ILB highlighted this sentence from the majority opinion: " We also urge the legislature to revisit Indiana Code section 35-38-1-1(b), which imposes an impracticable burden on our trial courts."

From the long story:

INDIANAPOLIS — When a state law is hard to follow and serves a debatable practical purpose, are Hoosiers obligated to obey it?

According to one three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals, the answer is no.

A recent 2-1 ruling penned by Chief Appeals Judge Nancy Vaidik, a Porter County native, concluded that trial judges can ignore a statutory requirement to inform convicted felons of their possible release dates from prison when pronouncing a criminal sentence.

State law, since at least 1995, mandates that a judge "shall advise the person that the person is sentenced for not less than the earliest release date, and for not more than the maximum possible release date."

In the case before the appeals court, Elkhart Superior Judge Teresa Cataldo read exactly those words in issuing a 40-year sentence without telling convicted child molester Edgardo Henriquez, 36, the actual "earliest" and "maximum" dates he could be released from prison.

Henriquez's lawyer argued in his appeal that he was improperly sentenced, because the trial judge did not calculate and announce his client's possible release dates.

Vaidik brushed aside that argument, claiming "trial courts are not equipped to determine these dates." * * *

Judge John Baker dissented from the appellate court ruling written by Vaidik and supported by Judge Edward Najam Jr.

Baker agreed that Henriquez is not entitled to relief due to the sentencing issue.

But, he said, judges have an obligation to follow the law, "and it is not within our purview to exempt trial courts from a mandatory statute simply because it may be difficult to comply with its requirements."

"Yes, it is complicated, and yes, it will require consideration of multiple factors and calendars. But I am confident that the trial judges of this state are up to the task," Baker said.

"The mere fact that a statutory requirement is difficult to fulfill cannot possibly mean that it can be ignored altogether."

Henriquez has until Thursday to decide whether to ask the Indiana Supreme Court to review the appellate decision.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 6, 2016 10:14 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions