ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE
Karen M. Freeman-Wilson Patrick R. Ragains
Attorney General of Indiana Smith & Ragains
Priscilla J. Fossum
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellant (Respondent Below ), ) 48S02-0108-CR-375 ) in the Supreme Court v. ) ) 48A02-0003-CR-176 RICHARD E. FULKROD, ) in the Court of Appeals ) Appellee (Petitioner Below ). )
August 23, 2001
SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
Five years after appellee Richard E. Fulkrod received a forty-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter, the trial court reduced that sentence to twenty-five years over the prosecutors objection. It had no authority to do so. We reverse.
At a sentencing hearing on September 21, 1994, Fulkrod offered expert testimony that
his physical injury made him susceptible to intense mood swings, including great anger
and rage and violent aggressiveness. (R. at 219, 230.) The court
cited Fulkrods physical and mental condition as a mitigating factor, as well as
his previously law abiding life. (R. at 378.)
The court also found several aggravating factors, including the brutality of the crime
and Fulkrods demeanor while committing it. After Fulkrod fired several shots he
paused, realized Sharon was still alive, and fired again. Fulkrod called 911
and while on the telephone asked Sharon, [Y]ou want another one? (R.
at 98.) He then told the dispatcher, I shot her five times
and the bitch is still living. (Id.)
The court sentenced Fulkrod to forty years in prison, the maximum of the
sentencing range in the plea agreement,
See footnote but then added:
In short what I want to do is go ahead and give you the maximum sentence but I want to reserve the right to modify it after I get a report from the Department of Corrections. It may turn out that a modification is justified . . . . I need a little time. I need another evaluation . . . The Court request[s] a psychological report from the Indiana Department of Corrections and if you feel the need [defense counsel] just let me know and I will set it down for further hearing and I will consider a sentence modification based on what they say. You can always go down but you cant go back up and I am going to give him the maximum and then we will see.
(R. at 375-76, 380.) On appeal, Fulkrod argued without success that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing an enhanced sentence. Fulkrod v. State, No. 48A02-9412-CR-738, slip op. at 3 (Ind. Ct. App. Apr. 28, 1995).
On May 26, 1999, Fulkrod filed a petition for sentence modification. At a hearing on the petition, the prosecutor said, I dont think the Court has jurisdiction and on behalf of the State I am objecting to the modification, Your Honor. And it is my belief that the Court cant go forward without our consent. (R. at 441.) Nonetheless, the trial court reduced Fulkrods sentence to twenty-five years. See footnote The Court of Appeals reversed. State v. Fulkrod, 735 N.E.2d 851 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000). The Court of Appeals was correct, and we grant transfer to put the issue to rest.
Defendant Pannarale entered into a plea agreement that provided for a sentence not
to exceed ten years for dealing in cocaine, and the sentencing court imposed
the ten-year maximum. Id. at 1248. Three years later Pannarale petitioned
for a sentence reduction under Ind. Code Ann. § 35-38-1-23 (West Supp. 1993).
Pannarale, 638 N.E.2d at 1248.
Indiana Code § 35-38-1-23, which was repealed in 1999, See footnote granted courts the authority to reduce the sentences of persons originally sentenced to more than four years, who were within two years of their earliest possible release dates and who met certain criteria such as the completion of educational programs. See Pannarale, 638 N.E.2d at 1248 n.1. We held that although Pannarales plea agreement did not include any reservation of authority language, the trial court could later modify the sentence pursuant to the statute so long as the modified sentence still fell within the agreements sentencing parameters. Id. at 1249 (emphasis added).
Here, Fulkrod does not claim that he qualified for a sentence modification under § 35-38-1-23 or any other statute. He overlooks Marts v. State, 478 N.E.2d 63 (Ind. 1985), which is more relevant to his claim.
In Marts, the defendant received a thirty-year sentence for dealing in cocaine, a
class A felony. Id. at 64. Although the prosecutor stipulated to
a reduction of the crime to class B felony status and a reduction
in the sentence to six years, the trial court denied Marts petition for
post-conviction relief. Id. We affirmed, saying:
Not only was the post-conviction court not required to modify the sentence, it was not empowered to do so. . . . [T]his Court had previously determined that the sentence was not unconstitutional, . . . hence, [Marts] is clearly requesting a modification, not a correction, of his sentence. Ind. Code § 35-38-1-17 (Burns 1985) provides for the modification of sentences, in pertinent part, as follows: The court, within one hundred eighty (180) days after it imposes a sentence, . . . may reduce or suspend the sentence, incorporating its reasons in the record. In State ex rel. Abel v. Vigo Cir. Ct. (1984), Ind. 562 N.E.2d 61, 63, this Court held that upon the expiration of the 180 days notwithstanding any petitions filed by the defendant, the court loses further jurisdiction over the defendant so far as the alteration of his sentence is concerned.
Marts, 478 N.E.2d at 65 (citations omitted).
In 1985, after the Marts decision, the General Assembly revised Ind. Code §
35-38-1-17 to allow sentence reduction or suspension after the 180-day period subject to
the prosecutors approval. In 1991, the legislature increased the 180-day time limit
to 365 days. Since 1991, the relevant language has therefore read as
Within three hundred sixty-five (365) days after:
the defendant begins serving his sentence . . .
the court may reduce or suspend the sentence. The court must incorporate its reasons in the record.
(b) If more than three hundred sixty-five (365) days have elapsed since the defendant began serving the sentence . . . the court may reduce or suspend the sentence, subject to the approval of the prosecuting attorney. . . .
Ind. Code Ann. § 35-38-1-17 (West 2000). See footnote
Despite these changes, the fundamental principle of
Marts still applies. Here, as
in Marts, the defendant failed to prove that his original sentence was erroneous,
so he then sought modification of that sentence. Here, also, the modification
request did not satisfy the requirements of
§ 35-38-1-17 (there, because the time limit had expired and there was no provision for an extended time period if the prosecutor agreed to the sentence reduction; here, because the time limit had expired and the prosecutor refused to give approval).
We therefore reach the same conclusion: the trial court lacked authority to
modify Fulkrods sentence. The fact that the sentencing judge particularly reserved .
. . the right to modify this sentence, (R. at 444), is of
no moment. The court was seeking to reserve a power that it
did not possess beyond the 365-day limit.
A sentencing judge cannot circumvent the plain provisions in the sentence modification statute
simply by declaring that he or she reserves the right to change the
sentence at any future time. Such language only raises false hope on
the defendants part.
Dickson, Sullivan, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.