Indiana Court of Appeals upholds 85-year sentence of Caudill in Turner murder PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marty Randall   
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 07:27

James Matthew Caudill’s appeal of his 85-year sentence in the 2015 robbery and murder of John Turner of Austin has been denied.

Caudill, 22, received the news of the Indiana Court of Appeals decision just before his 23rd birthday. He has been incarcerated since his arrest a few days after the November 7, 2015, robbery and murder. The violent crime shocked and saddened the Scott County community. The case resulted in convictions of not only Caudill but his brother, his girlfriend and two friends.

The jury trial for Caudill was to have started on August 2, 2016, but a conditional plea agreement was reached between the State, represented by then-Prosecutor Jason Mount and then-Chief Deputy Prosecutor Scott Owens, and Caudill, who was represented by a public defender. In return, all other charges in the case were dismissed against him as were eight charges in two other pending criminal cases plus a pending revocation of probation petition.

The plea agreement left sentencing to the trial court’s discretion. The sentencing range on the murder plea was from 45 to 65 years with an enhancement of from five to 20 years and a concurrent sentence of up to six years for robbery. Added up, Caudill was facing from 50 to 85 years, the State dropping its notice to seek life without parole for him if he was convicted by a jury.

Another public defender, a Madison attorney, was appointed to represent him in the appeals process. It was filed in September, 2016. Curtis T. Hill Jr., Indiana Attorney General, and Ellen Meilaender, Deputy Attorney General, represented the State of Indiana.

The appeal was based on Caudill’s contentions that the trial court, Scott Circuit Court, abused its discretion when it did not consider Caudill’s guilty plea and his statement of remorse at having committed the crimes as mitigating factors when he was sentenced. He also contended that the trial court “abused its discretion when it found ‘ the imposition of a reduced sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime’…and used that finding as an aggravating factor during sentencing.”

Mitigating factors are those that could lessen the amount of time a defendant could serve. Aggravating factors are those which could increase his time served.

Caudill received the total of 85 years in prison for murder and for a Level 5 felony of robbery. Attached to that was a sentence enhancement for using a firearm in the commission of the crimes.

When Caudill was sentenced, presiding Judge Roger Duvall Cotold him, “You have a history of criminal or delinquent behav

ior… You have recently violated conditions of probation… You were on continued probation…at the time…these acts were committed. The victim, John Turner…was everything we hope a person should be in this country…. He worked hard…he sacrificed for his family. He served as a wonderful example to friends, family and this community.”

An aggravating factor used by Judge Duvall was the fact that Turner was 78 years old when he died. The Judge explained, “This is appropriate because we as a society believe that the young and elderly need, deserve and have earned that special protection.”

In their examination of the sentence, Appeals Court Judges Melissa S. May, Edward Najam Jr. and L. Mark Bailey concurred that “…an abuse of discretion occurs of the decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the trial court.” In this case, they noted that the defendant was informed of the plea agreement and agreed to it, and its language as to the range of sentencing was clear. From the abundance of the evidence that showed Caudill committed the murder and robbery, and based on the timing of his plea, five days before the trial was to begin, Judge May wrote, “…we cannot conclude Caudill’s plea was anything but pragmatic. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it did not consider (his) guilty plea as a mitigating factor.”

Also noted was the fact that a trial court does not have to consider a defendant’s remorse as a mitigating factor and that the court did not abuse discretion when it determined that giving Caudill a lesser sentence “…would diminish the seriousness of the offense.”

All of the judges concurred on the appeal.