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Indiana Supreme Court Affirms Sentence after Botched Jailbreak

The Supreme Court of Indiana per curiam affirmed in July 2012 the 47-year sentence of Appellant Roger Bushhorn resulting from an attempted escape from county jail. Bushhorn and two other prisoners, James Smith and Ryan Renfroe, fashioned homemade knives from clothes hangers and got the midnight shift guard to open a cell door so they could use the restroom. They overwhelmed the guard, 54 year old Vicki Day, took her keys and chemical agent container, and used her radio to notify the control room that if they did not open the door to their area of confinement that they would kill Officer Day.

The door was not opened and Smith began stabbing Day. Shortly thereafter two guards rushed the three prisoners and were themselves overcome, mostly by the chemical spray, and then handcuffed. Then numerous guards entered the area and took the three prisoners into custody.

Bushhorn and the other two were charged with numerous felonies including kidnapping, attempted escape and battery. Bushhorn pled guilty, not a plea bargain, to kidnapping, two criminal confinement charges and attempted escape. The court sentenced him to 35 years for the kidnapping, and enhanced sentence, six years each for the criminal confinement, the three sentences to run consecutively, and six years concurrent for the attempted escape, for an aggregate 47 year sentence, with three years suspended.

Bushhorn appealed, arguing that a substantial portion of the aggravating factors relied upon by the trial court were not adequately supported by the record, and consecutive sentencing over and above an enhanced sentence was an abuse of the court’s discretion. The court of appeals agreed, resentencing Bushhorm to all concurrent sentences, which yielded a 35-year sentence.

The state petitioned the Supreme Court of Indiana to transfer jurisdiction to their court, which was granted. Oral arguments ensued. The supreme court agreed with the state that the trial court’s sentence was neither inappropriate nor an abuse of discretion, since the offenses were committed against more than one victim.

The court affirmed the trial court’s sentence of 47 years, three suspended. See: Bushhorn v. Indiana, 971 N.E.2d 80 (Ind. 2012).

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Related legal case

Bushhorn v. Indiana