Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Indiana Court Ruling: Fetus is a Live Human Being

Bishop jury suggests sentence25-year-old won't face life without parole, but it will be decades before he could be freed

By Don Fasnacht Staff writer

Richard A. Bishop still has a glimmer of hope that he might walk out of prison one day.

A Wayne Superior Court 1 jury deliberated all day Friday and reached the decision his crimes do not deserve a sentence of life without parole.
He will be sentenced Sept. 30 to a fixed term for murder of a fetus, attempted murder of his ex-girlfriend and burglary.

He will face between 45 and 65 years in prison for the murder conviction; 20 to 50 years for attempted murder; and two to eight years for burglary.
If Judge Tom Snow were to give Bishop, who is 25, the maximum sentence on each charge and order the terms served consecutively, Bishop will be in prison for more than 120 years.

But sentences are usually served concurrently, so Bishop could be ordered to serve between 45 and 65 years with an additional four years thrown in for a probation violation on a previous charge.

With Indiana's policy of allowing one day of probation for each day of "good time" in prison, Bishop could emerge from prison before he is 60.
Bishop was convicted of killing the unborn, but viable, baby of Tiffany Williams during a knife attack on her March 31, 2004.

He had broken into her Sheridan Street house. She was his ex-girlfriend and the baby was his.

Bishop's trial lasted four days, and the jury that worked all day Friday on the sentencing deliberated eight hours Thursday night before returning their verdict at 1 a.m. Friday.

They were back in the courtroom at 9 a.m. Friday to begin considering the sentence.

The jury's only duty was to determine the life without parole issue. Snow will affix the sentence in years.

The judge commended the 14 men and women (there were two alternates) who spent the week on the case.

"I've sat here and watched you work for five days," Snow told the jury, "giving us all your effort.

"It has renewed my faith in the system."

The jury spent at least five hours wrestling with the elaborate sentencing procedure.

The prosecution offered two aggravating circumstances to justify life without parole. One "aggravator" was the fact that Bishop was on probation at the time of the crime for a previous assault with a gun.

Defense attorney Steven Hunyadi argued that the fact Bishop was mentally ill at the time of the crime -- something the jury had confirmed in its guilty verdict -- was a mitigating factor.

The jury agreed the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating factors in the sentencing.

Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Shipman said he was pleased with the guilty verdict and not visibly upset with the jury's rejection of his plea for life without parole. "It was a hard case," Shipman said.

Trying Bishop for killing a viable fetus was, in and of itself, an historic event.

"I think this is the first trial under Indiana's new law," Shipman said.
Indiana's murder law was amended to include viable fetuses in 2001.

It has been 10 years since a life without parole sentence was handed down in Wayne County. Wayne Mull, then 29, was sentenced for the murder of 19-year-old Mindy Mull, who was no relation.

The judge determined the 1995 sentence under a law that created the sentence only a year before.

Friday's sentencing was the first time a jury made the decision under later modifications of the law.

Reporter Don Fasnacht:
(765) 973-4483 or dfasnacht@pal-item.com

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