INDIANAPOLIS — A Gary man sentenced to life in prison without parole is asking the Indiana Supreme Court whether a judge could have given him a different sentence.
Robert Lewis III was convicted for the rape and murder of a Griffith schoolteacher in October 2013. A deadlocked jury left the sentencing up to the judge, who said she was obligated to give Lewis life in prison without parole.
Marce Gonzalez Jr., an attorney for Lewis, said in written arguments to the state Supreme Court that the judge should have been able to give a term-of-years sentence, an option that the jury had.
The sentencing jury couldn't agree whether prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Lewis murdered the woman while sexually assaulting her. Under Indiana law, if the jury had recommended life without parole, the judge would have been required to follow that suggestion.
The judge said that her reading of state law still required the life without parole sentence, even with the jury deadlocked, because she found the prosecution had proven this act.
"It would be inconsistent with the intent of the statute in providing for jury discretion in such a significant decision-making process... by removing a judge's discretion on the ultimate issue," Gonzalez said in written arguments.
Gonzalez said judges often have authority to add years to sentences for other crimes, such as using a gun while committing a felony.
The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/1yNIfCQ ) reports that the state attorney general's office, representing the prosecution, says there's no sign the judge saw a lesser sentence as better, and therefore the appeal is irrelevant.
The state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments Thursday morning.
Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com
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