Public questions judge’s decision in rape conviction

David C. Wise (Provided Photo)
David C. Wise (Provided Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The public may never know the entire reason why an Indianapolis judge gave a convicted rapist no time in prison because the county where the man was sentenced apparently is the only one in Indiana that doesn’t require its judges to state their reasons in writing.

An Indianapolis woman told reporters last week that she felt sucker-punched by the punishment that Marion County Judge Kurt Eisgruber gave her ex-husband on May 16: eight years in home detention and a 12-year suspended sentence for raping her while she was drugged or asleep. Wise, 52, was convicted last month of one count of rape and five counts of criminal deviate conduct.

“His sentence could have been between six years suspended or 100 years in prison,” said Joel M. Schumm, a law professor at Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. Prosecutors had sought a 40-year prison term.

Since then, social media and websites have attacked the judge over what they perceive as an inexplicably light sentence. The woman said the judge told her that she needed to forgive her attacker and move on.

“We understand that the legal process can be stressful for victims,” said Catherine O’Connor, President and CEO of The Julian Center, a shelter and counseling center for abused women and families in Indianapolis.

Schumm said those attacking the judge will probably never entirely know what led to his decision, because while a couple of judges in Marion County do it anyway, there is no requirement that judges prepare a written sentencing order outlining their rationale as in other counties. The judge has not commented on the ruling.

“That’s the problem with this, is everybody is attacking him or attacking the sentence, but they don’t have any idea why he issued the sentence,” Schumm said. The complete reasoning behind the sentence may never be known unless someone can access an audio recording or transcript of the hearing, he said. That could be difficult to arrange not only for potential listeners but also for the court reporter, and could potentially take weeks.

Sentencing orders are generally just a few pages long and outline the pros and cons that led to the sentencing. A pre-sentence report might also shed some light, but those are confidential. “It’s just a lot easier for the interest of the public and confidence in the criminal justice system. Being able to see the judge’s reasoning in a sentencing order would go a long way in that,” Schumm said.

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