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Support Clemency for Aaron “Israel” Isby!

Original source: IDOC Watch

Please support Aaron “Israel” Isby an imprisoned Indiana freedom fighter, as he fights for clemency after 28 years of wrongful incarceration in solitary confinement!

Israel has submitted his clemency appeal and has been waiting to hear back for several months. As of early September, the time period within which the Governor is required to respond to the appeal has elapsed, and Israel has not received any response!

Israel was held in solitary confinement by the Indiana Department of Correction for nearly 28 consecutive years after becoming a target of the prison authorities in the early 90s due to his refusal to submit to racism, abuse, and inhumane conditions. In 1991 he participated in the mass hunger strike, which lasted around a month, at the Maximum Control Complex (now Westville Control Unit). That hunger strike gave rise to the first human rights investigations into solitary confinement in the US, and the Human Rights Watch report “Cold Storage: Super-Maximum Solitary Confinement in Indiana.”

In 2018, Israel won a Federal civil rights lawsuit against the IDOC for violations of his constitutional right to due process that were involved in the DOC keeping him in solitary for 28 years. You can read more about the lawsuit here.

Israel remains incarcerated at Miami CF, on a trumped-up attempted murder charge, which resulted from him defending himself against a cell extraction team assaulting him in 1990.

You can contact and support Israel by setting up an account at web.connectnetwork.com and sending him messages and money. Or you can write to him at:

Aaron “Israel” Isby #892219
Miami CF
3038 W 850 S, Bunker Hill, IN 46914

Support Needed: Urge People to Write Letters, Make Phone Calls, Send emails to Governor of Indiana Eric J. Holcomb, Urging that He Grant Relief to AARON ISBY, by issuing an Executive Order to Commute his Sentence and Immediately Release him from Prison to Parole!

Aaron is currently serving a Sentence that is no longer valid and is illegal, because the sentencing scheme in which Aaron was sentenced under in 1992, was ruled unconstitutional in 2005, by the Indiana Supreme Court in Smylie v. State. For years Indiana’s sentencing scheme allowed Judges the unrestricted discretion to increase criminal defendants’ sentences beyond the “Fixed Term” (“Presumptive”), based on aggravators that had not been tried before a Jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. This turned out to be UNCONSTITUTIONAL! While thousands of other Indiana Prisoners have received relief under Smylie, Aaron has not.

Aaron is now seeking a Commutation of his Sentence, Pursuant to the Indiana Constitution Article 5, sec. 17, from the Governor of Indiana Eric J. Holcomb, because the Indiana Courts will not apply the Smylie ruling to his case retroactively, and grant him the relief he should be entitled to under the law. Currently, a Petition for Clemency to Commute Aaron’s Sentence was filed on May 12, 2020, and is Pending before the Indiana Parole Board, in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is coming up for review in nine (9) days. Aaron has outlined, his legal claim in his petition as follows:

Aaron Isby is serving a 40 year, 6 month Sentence in the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”), for two concurrent counts of attempted murder, Class A Felonies, and a consecutive misdemeanor count on a Battery Conviction, that was imposed by a Anderson, Indiana, Judge, before the Madison County Circuit Court, in 1992, without a Jury determination. Although, Indiana Code (35-50-2-4), in 1992, Provided for a Thirty year “Fixed Term”, for a Class A Felony Conviction, Aaron was sentenced ten years and six months beyond the Presumptive (“Fixed Term”), which renders Aaron’s sentence illegal.

In Smylie v. State, 823 N.E.2d 679, 681-82 (Ind. 2005), the Indiana Supreme Court concluded that the Portion of the Indiana sentencing scheme Aaron was sentenced under violated the Sixth Amendment’s right to trial by jury. Citing [Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296(2004)], the Indiana Supreme Court specifically stated that “it is apparent that Indiana’s sentencing system runs afoul of the Sixth Amendment not because it mandates a ‘Fixed Term’ sentence for each felony, but because it mandates both a ‘Fixed Term’ and permits Judicial discretion in finding aggravating or mitigating circumstances to deviate from the ‘Fixed Term.’” The Court held that “the sort of facts envisioned by Blakely as necessitating a jury finding [any fact that increases the Penalty for a crime beyond the Prescribed Statutory Maximum] must be found by a jury under Indiana’s existing sentencing laws.” (Id. Smylie, 823 N.E.2d at 685-86.) The Statutory Maximum [Fixed Term] for Blakely Purposes for a Class A Felony is thirty years (30), and no Judge alone has the authority to increase the “Fixed Term” beyond thirty years for aggravating circumstances unless these aggravating factors are tried before a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

On April 25, 2005, in response to Smylie and Blakely, the Indiana Legislature passed Indiana Code 35-50-2-1.3, (See P.L. 71-2005, sec.5), which went into effect providing for “advisory” sentences. “Advisory” Sentences was not a sentencing option when Aaron was Sentenced in 1992. Until this change was mandated by Blakely and Smylie, Judges in Indiana acted alone to increase a sentence beyond the “Presumptive”. If Aaron was sentenced to an “advisory” sentence under the Blakely or Smylie ruling, his sentence would be no more than a combined total of Thirty years. Aaron’s current sentence is no longer valid in light of the Blakely and Smylie ruling. 

While changes in laws over time are inevitable, for Aaron, the absence of “advisory” sentence in 1992 operated like a reverse, arbitrary lottery: go to trial today, get a Death-in-Prison sentence imposed by a Judge alone; go to trial tomorrow, get an “advisory” sentence and a chance to get out of prison alive or get a second chance on life. The Legislative Branch changes laws. The Judicial Branch cannot correct the inequity born by this kind of change in the sentencing law, but the Executive Branch can.

Aaron must point out that the offenses of Attempted Murder in many other states carry far lesser time in Prison, than he has served in Indiana. [1] Indiana Courts have acknowledged that attempted murder was not listed or defined by the Statute as a “Crime of Violence” at the time of Aaron’s offense (1990) and conviction in 1992  (Ellis v. State, 736 N.E.2d 731, 736 (Ind. 2000)). 

In Smylie, 823 NE2d at 693, footnote 16, the Court Stated that the “‘fundamental error’ doctrine will not, as case law holds, be available to attempt retroactive application of Blakely through Post-Conviction Relief.” The Smylie decision makes it clear that the Indiana Courts will not grant Aaron any relief. Thus, we must urge the Executive Branch, which is Governor Eric J. Holcomb, to exercise his Constitutional Power and right this wrong, and grant Aaron’s Petition and Commute his sentence to a flat Thirty year sentence and immediately release him from Prison! This will correct the arbitrary absence of “advisory” sentences at the time of Aaron’s trial. 

Spread the Word!!!!

Attention: CALL FOR SUPPORT!

Name of Person: AARON E. ISBY (A.K.A. ISRAEL) DOC#892219.
Current Incarceration: Indiana Department of Corrections, Miami Correctional Facility.
Name of Court where Tried: Madison County Circuit Court, Anderson, Indiana.
Date of Sentencing: September 30, 1992, term of sentence: 40 yrs.6mo.
Convictions: Two Concurrent Counts of Attempted Murder, Class A Felonies and Third Count Battery, Class B Misdemeanor,Consecutive to Counts I & II.
Case Number: 48C01-9011-CF-139.
Subject: Petition for Clemency Seeking Commutation of Sentence
From Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb, Filed on May 12, 2020, with the Indiana Parole Board.

[1] Matthew R. Durose and Patrick A. Langan, “Felony Sentences in State Courts, 2004,” Bureau of Justice Statistics July 2007.