Appeals Court Upholds Starke County Sentence

 The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a sentence from Starke Circuit Court. A jury found Steven A. Garland guilty of strangulation as a Level 6 felony in September of 2015, and Starke Circuit Judge Kim Hall sentenced him to 30 months in prison.

Court documents indicate Garland walked into the house of a woman he was dating, confronted her about a previous incident, became violent, jumped on her bed, pinned her down and started choking her. She was able to get away from him and called 911 from a neighbor’s house.

Garland’s appeal claimed the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a continuance. It also sought to overturn his conviction due to insufficient evidence and contended the trial court abused its discretion at sentencing.

Court documents indicate the defense counsel gave the prosecutor the names of two witnesses the morning of the scheduled trial, one of whom had not been subpoenaed and did not return a telephone message until the morning of the trial. He reportedly said another man told him the victim liked to be choked during sexual relations. Garland’s attorney sought a continuance, presumably to contact that witness.

However, the appeals court ruling notes the choking did not occur during sexual relations, which would have made the third-party testimony “irrelevant and therefore inadmissible.”

As for Garland’s contention that the state failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain his conviction, the appeals court will not reweigh evidence, nor will it reexamine witness credibility. Therefore they will not consider Garland’s claim that the choking occurred during sexual play and that he was acting in self defense.

Garland’s appeal also claims the trial court abused its discretion at sentencing by not giving mitigating weight to his mental illness and rather looking at it as an aggravating factor. The appeals court ruling notes that issue was not raised during the sentencing hearing and cannot be considered on appeal.