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What Happens When a Person Receives an Exceptionally Long Prison Sentence?

In December 2020, an Elkhart Circuit Court judge sentenced Winston Corbett, a 25-year old Indiana man, to 115 years in prison for fatally stabbing a college professor and attempting to murder the professor’s wife during a home invasion ten years ago. For some, the sentence may seem exaggerated: why would a court hand down a sentence that will exceed the person’s lifespan? Below, we explain how these long sentences come about and what they mean for the defendant.

Sentences for separate crimes

When a person receives an exceptionally long prison sentence, it is usually because the person has been convicted of multiple offenses, and the court has sentenced them for each offense. In this case, Corbett received 65-years for the murder conviction and 50 years for the attempted murder conviction. The judge ruled that the sentences will run consecutively, meaning Corbett must finish the first sentence before serving the second. His total sentence is thus 115 years.

If the judge had decided that Corbett’s sentences should run concurrently, the total sentence would not have been as long. When multiple prison sentences arising out of the same set of facts run concurrently, it means the defendant serves all the sentences simultaneously. In this case, both the 50-year and 65-year sentences would have run at the same time, and the maximum length of Corbett’s sentence would be 65-years. Judges determine whether to assign consecutive or concurrent sentences depending on the severity of the crime and the defendant’s past criminal record.

Eligibility for parole

A defendant with an exceptionally long sentence will not necessarily serve the entire length of that sentence. Under Indiana § 11-13-3-2(b)(3), a convicted felon may be eligible for release through parole after serving 20 years of their sentence, unless the court has deemed that no parole will be allowed. If Corbett had been sentenced to serve his time concurrently, or only had one conviction, he would have been eligible for parole after serving 20 years of his total sentence.

However, Indiana law does not allow parole for persons who must serve consecutive life sentences. Corbett will likely be in prison for life without the possibility of parole–unless he appeals and a court overturns one or more of his convictions or reduces his sentence.

If you have been arrested and fear receiving an exceptionally long sentence, call the qualified criminal defense lawyers of Razumich & Associates to learn how to best defend yourself and protect your rights. We are ready to fight for you. Contact us today.

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