INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Court of Appeals has reduced the prison term of a Winfield man who, while driving drunk and fleeing Merrillville police in 2006, struck and killed a motorcyclist, Kirk John Mitchell.
Joseph J. Scott, 29, pleaded guilty to causing death while operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of at least 0.15, resisting law enforcement while operating a vehicle causing death, reckless homicide and criminal recklessness.
According to court records, Scott's trial attorney, Bruce Parent, advised him that the longest prison sentence he'd face by pleading guilty was 30 years, and Scott was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
However, the appeals court, in a 3-0 decision, ruled Scott received ineffective assistance of counsel because the maximum sentence Scott faced by going to trial was actually 23 years.
The court said the enhanced resisting law enforcement charge would have been reduced following conviction to avoid punishing Scott twice for Mitchell's death.
To make up for his attorney's error, the appeals court ordered Scott's sentence reduced to 23 years.
On July 29, 2006, Scott's car slammed into the back of Mitchell's motorcycle at the intersection of 73rd Avenue and Broadway in Merrillville. Mitchell's body was thrown from his motorcycle and found 281 feet from the point of impact.
Scott was fleeing from police after they tried to pull him over for going 62 mph in a 30 mph zone, according to police records.
Mitchell, 42, of Valparaiso, was a photographer and pre-press manager for The Times.