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State v. Johnston

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 13, 2016

State of Indiana, Appellant-Respondent,
v.
Douglas Woods Johnston, Appellee-Petitioner.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Kurt Eisgruber, Judge The Honorable Steven J. Rubick, Magistrate Trial Court Cause No. 49G01-0508-FC-147277

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Aaron T. Craft Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Matthew D. Anglemeyer Marion County Public Defender Indianapolis, Indiana

          Bailey, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] The State of Indiana ("the State") appeals the denial of a motion to correct error, which challenged an order granting the petition of Douglas Woods Johnston ("Johnston") to relieve him of registration requirements under the Indiana Sex Offenders Registry Act, Indiana Code Section 11-8-8-1, et seq., ("SORA"). The State presents the sole issue of whether Johnston was granted relief in contravention of statutory authority. We reverse.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On October 13, 2015, Johnston filed a "Request for Removal from Sex Offender Registry" pursuant to Indiana Code Section 11-8-8-22. (App. at 14.) Johnston, who has two convictions for Child Molesting, as Class C felonies, referenced only his 2006 conviction in his petition. He stated that he had been found guilty but mentally ill in 2006, and claimed that he was eligible for relief due to his age (fifty-nine years) and willingness to get continued treatment for his mental illness.

         [¶3] On January 26, 2016, the trial court conducted a hearing. At the outset, Johnston's counsel advised the trial court that Johnston also had a Child Molesting conviction in 1997. Counsel further advised that Johnson had been arrested in 2013, but the charge was dismissed. Johnston then testified regarding his mental health treatment and the hardships of compliance with SORA requirements.

         [¶4] At the conclusion of the hearing, the State objected that the petition was inadequate to permit the trial court to reach the issue of Johnston's removal from the sex offender registry. Additionally, the State argued that Johnston had not met his burden of proof. Johnston's counsel responded that Johnston was fifty-nine years old, living on disability, and "absolutely limited by his requirement to register." (Tr. at 13.) Counsel urged that Johnston's 2006 conviction should be distinguished because he had been found guilty but mentally ill ("GBMI"). The trial court took the matter under advisement.

         [¶5] On February 10, 2016, the trial court entered an order that Johnston be required to register as a sex offender only up until July 28, 2016, ten years after his 2006 conviction. The Indiana Department of Correction ("the DOC") filed a motion to intervene, which was granted. The DOC filed a motion to correct error and the trial court set a hearing date. However, the DOC did not appear at the hearing and the trial court summarily denied the motion to correct error. This appeal ensued.[1]

         Discussion and Decision Standard of Review

         [¶6] Generally, we review a trial court's ruling on a motion to correct error for an abuse of discretion. City of Indianapolis v. Hicks, 932 N.E.2d 227, 230 (Ind.Ct.App. 2010), trans. denied. However, to the extent the issues ...


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