Attorneys for Appellee
Attorney General of Indiana
Deputy Attorney General
Appellant (Defendant below),
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff below ).
) Supreme Court No.
) Court of Appeals No.
January 23, 2002
The trial court sentenced Defendant to two years for Battery and one year
ting a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated, to run concurrently. That is,
the trial court imposed more than the standard sentence for the Battery conviction.
The court supported the sentence with the following aggravating circumstances:
1. The probability that the Defendant will commit another crime.
2. The Defendants lack of remorse.
3. That Defendant is unlikely to respond to probation.
The trial court also identified as a mitigating circumstance Defendants lack of su bstantial criminal history.
The Court of Appeals reviewed each of these factors and concluded that the
first and third were valid aggravating circumstances. The Court of Appeals also
concluded that the trial court did not err by failing to find Defendants
mental health to be a valid mitigating ci
rcumstance. But the Court of
Appeals did find the trial courts use of Defendants purported lack of remorse
to be improper.
We agree with the analysis of the Court of Appeals on each of
After having made these determinations, the Court of Appeals found itself in the
ition of having to pass on Defendants sentence while faced with a different
constellation of aggravating and mitigating circumstances than those utilized by the trial court.
This prompted Judge Bailey, writing for the Court of Appeals, to reflect
upon the general rule that a single aggravator may support the full enhancement
of the sentence.
Judge Baileys reflections provoked a separate opinion from Judge
Mattingly-May, a vigorous transfer petition from the State, and a grant of transfer
from our court.
Here is what Judge Bailey said to provoke this reaction:
Properly understood, the rule stands for the proposition that a trial court may impose a fully enhanced sentence upon an adequate showing of a single aggr avating factor. The rule allows a trial court to focus on the factor or factors that truly warrant an enhanced sentence, without fear that a reviewing court will reverse the courts sentence for lack of sufficient aggravation. The rule should not, however, encourage trial courts imposing enhanced sentences to simply compile a list of virtually every potentially aggravating factor, secure in the belief that even if some of the aggravators identified are later found to be invalid, a higher court will separate the wheat from the chaff and still uphold an enhanced sentence on the basis of the general rule that a single aggravator may support an enhanced sentence.
We reiterate that it is the trial court's job to identify valid aggravating
and mitigating factors, explain why they qualify as such, weigh those factors, and
articulate its reasons for imposing its sentence. When, as here, a trial
court identifies a number of aggravating factors and explains that they support an
enhanced sentence, we must assume that the court considered each factor to have
some aggravating value. Unless the trial court either
assigns a specific weight
to each aggravator in terms of the proportion of an enhancement, or says
that any one of the aggravators identified could individually support the enhancement, we
are left to guess at the respective weight assigned to each factor.
Without such guidance from the trial court, it is difficult, if not logically
impossible, to affirm an enhanced sentence in its totality while at the same
time invalidating a certain proportion of the factors specifically identified by the trial
court as supporting that very enhanced sentence.
Hollen, 740 N.E.2d at 160-61 (emphasis added).
Judge Mattingly-Mays separate opinion and the States petition to transfer focus on what
they term Judge Baileys suggestion that the trial court is obliged to assign
to each a
ggravating factor a specific proportional weight. Id. at 162.
They contend that such a requirement is inconsistent with the broad discretion enjoyed
by trial court judges in, and the complexity of, sentencing. Id.
To the extent that the State requests that we confirm that a trial court judge is not o bligated to assign to each aggravating circumstance a specific proportional weight, we do so.
At the same time, we are constrained to observe that we think that the State has f ocused on that language in Judge Baileys opinion to the exclusion of its context. The opinion reiterated the long-standing rule that a single aggravating circumstance can be sufficient to sustain a sentence imposed using additional invalid aggravating circumstances. And it did not reverse the sentence imposed or even remand for new sentencing.
With some regularity, our court points out that when a trial court relies
avating circumstances to enhance the presumptive sentence, it must identify all significant
circumstances, state the specific reasons why the circumstance is aggravating or mitigating, and
articulate the courts evaluation and balancing of the circumstances. Bowles v. State,
737 N.E.2d 1150, 1154 (Ind. 2000) (citing Ind. Code § 35-38-1-3 and Bonds
v. State, 729 N.E.2d 1002, 1005 (Ind. 2000)). Indeed, as this citation
points out, the Legislature requires this of sentencing statements: Before sentencing a
person for a felony, the court must conduct a hearing to consider the
facts and circumstances relevant to sentencing. ... The court shall make a record
of the hearing, including ... if the court finds aggravating circumstances or mitigating
circumstances, a statement of the courts reasons for selecting the sentence it imposes.
Ind. Code § 35-38-1-3 (3) (1998).
We do not read Judge Bailey's opinion as mandating additional requirements for the
required sentencing statement. Rather, we read it as a rather straightforward expression
of the difficulty a court on appeal has in reviewing an enhanced sentence
where one or more aggravating circumstances have been improperly employed.
It is no more than logic to say that, if one or more
aggravating circumstances cited by the trial court are invalid, the court on appeal
must decide whether the remaining circu
mstance or circumstances are sufficient to support the
sentence imposed. Judge Baileys opinion simply says that that determination is most
easily made if the trial court has indicated the relative weight it assigned
to the aggravators it listed in its sentencing statement. That Judge Baileys
opinion says no more than that is made clear by the approach the
opinion takes following the language with which Judge Mattingly-May and the State took
exception. The opinion goes on to conclude that, given the relative insignificance
of the invalid aggravator, the absence of any new mitigators, and the minimal
enhancement of the sentence imposed, the trial courts sentencing decision would have been
the same without the invalid aggravator. Hollen, 740 N.E.2d at 161.
We frequently take the same approach when we encounter an invalid aggravating circumstance,
see, e.g., McCann v. State, 749 N.E.2d 1116, 1121 (Ind. 2001); Hawkins v.
State, 748 N.E.2d 362, 363 (Ind. 2001); Hollins v. State, 679 N.E.2d 1305,
1308 (Ind. 1997); Brown v. State, 667 N.E.2d 1115, 1117 (Ind. 1996), although
reweighing pursuant to our review and revise power, Long v. State, 743 N.E.2d
253, 262 (Ind. 2001), or remanding for new sentencing statement, Wooley v. State,
716 N.E.2d 919, 933 (Ind. 1999), will sometimes be required.
In summary, we agree with Judge Mattingly-May and the State that a trial
court judge is not required to assign in a statement accompanying an enhanced
sentence specific weight to each aggravating and mitigating circumstance. But a reasonably
detailed sentencing statement is required and assigning relative weights facilitates appellate review in
ations where one or more invalid aggravating circumstances have been utilized.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON, BOEHM, and RUCKER, JJ., concur.