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Gas City Woman Appeals Murder Conviction To State Supreme Court


In late September 2022, the Supreme Court of Indiana will hear arguments from a woman convicted of murder in the death of her 10-year-old stepdaughter.

Authorities found the girl, who had been strangled, in a tool shed behind the family’s home. During trial, the defense attorney argued the killing was not a murder but rather a stepmother snapping. A jury, though, disagreed, and found the defendant guilty of murder, neglect of a dependent, strangulation, and domestic battery resulting in death.

The same jury also decided she should serve life in prison without parole.

Criminal Procedure in Indiana

As recently as the 1990s, about 20 percent of criminal cases went to trial. Today, trials resolve fewer than 5 percent of the criminal cases in Indiana.

Depending on the evidence in the case and a few other factors, several types of pleas are available in Marion County:

  • Agreed Pleas: At some point in the case, the prosecutor and an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney begin plea negotiations. Initially, prosecutors make officers based on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal record. Attorneys then leverage defenses, like an affirmative defense or a lack of evidence, to get a better deal. In an agreed plea, the terms of the agreement are set prior to going to court.
  • Open Pleas: If prosecutors and an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney can’t reach an agreement, and the defendant doesn’t want to risk a trial, defendants may almost literally throw themselves on the mercy of the court. In an open plea, the person pleads guilty as charged without an agreement as to the sentence. In this case the parties would present evidence at a sentencing

A guilty plea means the defendant admits that s/he committed the crime as alleged in the charging documents. A “no contest plea” or “Alford Pleas” where the defendant admits no wrong doing but concedes the State would prove them guilty, are not allowed in Indiana.  If the defendant cannot admit guilt, the only option is trial.

Appealing a Criminal Conviction

It’s almost impossible to appeal a plea bargain, usually because these pleas include express waivers of appeal rights. It’s not much easier to successfully appeal a criminal trial verdict. Courts have consistently held that defendants are entitled to fair trials, but not perfect trials.

So, the defendant must usually prove that a serious error in the trial, and that the error substantially affected the outcome. Improper evidence rulings may be the most common basis for appeal. The defendant must prove the judge abused his/her discretion in these matters. In other words, the defendant must prove the judge’s decision was clearly unreasonable, erroneous, or arbitrary and not justified by the facts or the law.

Other appeal bases include inadequate evidence, a prosecutor’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence, racial appeals and other improper jury arguments, and jury misconduct in one form or another.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Marion County Attorney

Criminal suspects have important rights when their cases go to court. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Indianapolis, contact Rigney Law LLC. We routinely handle matters throughout Indiana.


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