The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld Stephon Moore's 95-year sentence pronounced by Circuit Court Judge Jon Webster on Oct. 30, 2019.
A jury of his peers determined Moore was guilty of murdering Donavan Booker after shooting hi in the back and of the attempted murder of Larry Evans, Booker's friend, as he attempted to flee after the shooting.
An appeal in such a case is automatic, with court-appointed attorney Patrick Magrath of Madison handling the revie. He based the appeal on 2 issues:
1. Self defense: During the trial, the defense argued that Moore had acted in self defense when he shot Booker and that the state "failed to present sufficient evidence to rebut" the claim.
However, the Appeals Court did not agree. The decision noted that Moore went armed to the scene of the exoected fist fight; brandished his gun before the fight; entered the fight by kicking Larry Evans off the person he was fighting with, Frank Bailey; that he brandished the weapon a second time when Donavan defended himself from Fashion Ellis, who came to the scene with Moore; that Moore shot Donavan after Donavan saw the gun and turned away to flee; and lastly, that Moore shot at Larry's back as Larry ran away from the shooting. Three eyewitnesses testified Moore did not face harm when he shot at the 2 men.
2. Inapproriate Sentence: Magrath argued the 95-year sentence was "inappropriate" because of the offenses and Moore's character.
The Appeals Court reviews any sentence to determine if it is "inappropriate." In doing so, the justice looks at the "advisory sentence" as outlined by state law. The sentence range for murder is from 45 to 65 years, with the advisory being 55.
The sentence for attempted murder ranges from 20 to 40 years, with the advisory being 30.
The Appeals Court noted Judge Webster did not impose the maximum sentence on either count.
The character of the defendant also plays a role in the sentencing. The Appeals Court noted Moore was 31 when sentenced; and had been convicted of 8 misdemeanors, mostly drugs. He was rated as a "high risk" to reoffend.
Concluding, the Court confirmed that the state did present enough evidence to rebut the claim of self defense and that his 95-year sentence "is not inappropriate in light of the nature of his offenses and his character."