Legislative Activity - Indiana

  • Indiana Bars Execution of Juvenile Offenders - Indiana became the 16th state to forbid the death penalty for those who were under 18 years-of-age at the time of their crime. Gov. Frank O'Bannon signed SB 426 on March 26. The law also requires judges to follow juries' unanimous sentencing recommendations. (Associated Press, 3/ 26/02.) Federal death penalty law similarly excludes juvenile offenders. An additional 5 states restrict the death penalty to those who are at least 17 at the time of their crime
  • A trial court judge in Indianapolis ruled that the state's death penalty statute was unconstitutional in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. Judge Grant W. Hawkins held that the state's statute effectively denied death row inmate Charles Barker his right to trial by jury, and dismissed the death penalty as a sentencing option at Barker's upcoming resentencing hearing. Hawkins based his ruling on Apprendi v. New Jersey (530 U.S. 466 (2000)). In Apprendi, the U.S. Supreme Court held that any fact, other than a prior conviction, that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In Indiana, the jury makes an unbinding recommendation to the judge, who sentences the defendant. Judge Hawkins ruled that the Indiana statute violates Apprendi because it is possible that a judge could sentence an inmate to death even though a jury has failed to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, the existence of an aggravating factor. (Order on Supplemental Motion to Dismiss Death Penalty, September 10, 2001)