Court of Appeals Decides Two Tippecanoe County Criminal Cases

On June 30, 2015, the Court of Appeals issued opinions in two Tippecanoe County criminal cases. The first, State v. Anderson affirmed the decision of Tippecanoe County Superior Court 2 Judge (now Circuit Court Judge) Tom Busch. At issue was the “breaking” element of burglary. According to the definition in place when the crime was committed, “a person who breaks and enters the building or structure of another person, with intent to commit a felony in it, commits burglary.” Prior decisions had indicated that walking through an open door doesn’t satisfy the “breaking” element but opening an unlocked door does. The facts in Mr. Anderson’s case indicated that he rushed the victim to force his way in when the victim opened the door for an individual who was expected. Because this satisfied the “breaking” element, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court.

The second, Longer v. State, affirmed the decision of Tippecanoe County Superior Court 1 Judge, Randy Williams. At issue was the propriety of Longer’s sentence after he was convicted of robbing Village Pantry in Lafayette. Longer argued that he should have received a shorter sentence because the trial court should have included the fact that he had a young child as a mitigating circumstance. The Court of Appeals explained that trial courts are permitted to consider that as a mitigating circumstance but is not required to do so and, in any event, Longer did not develop that argument before the trial court and, therefore, cannot claim it was error for the trial court not to include that as a mitigating factor. And, finally, the Court of Appeals observed that the trial court did consider the argument but was not persuaded:

Moreover, we find it clear that the trial court did take Longer’s proffered mitigating circumstance under consideration, stating, “Okay so your baby is [already] born and you are out flashing guns at innocent people who are trying to earn a living. I don’t know how much you were concerned about your child every time that you were using, smoking crack and as I said flashing a gun.” (Tr. pp. 46-47). Thus, it is apparent that the trial court found that the effect of Longer’s incarceration on his child was not a mitigating circumstance.

The Court of Appeals was, furthermore, not persuaded by Mr. Longer’s contention that the nature of the offense and the character of the defendant did not justify his sentence of 26 years executed and 5 years suspended. As to his character, the Court observed:

[W]e would remind Longer that he was given a chance to reform himself following his first offense with a firearm. Instead, while on probation, he went out on two separate nights and pointed a gun at three different people so that he could further his drug habit. He not only put himself and the store clerks in danger, but he failed to consider the effect that his conduct would have on his then six-month-old child, who will now have to spend the majority of her childhood visiting her father in the Department of Correction. Accordingly, we cannot say that Longer’s sentence is inappropriate.