Justices find nature of murders supports death penalty


Jennifer Nelson for www.theindianalawyer.com

A Gary man who shot and killed his wife and her two children at close range will remain on death row, the Indiana Supreme Court concluded Wednesday.

Kevin Charles Isom was convicted of three counts of murder for the 2007 shooting deaths of wife, Cassandra, and his 13-year-old stepdaughter, Ci’Andria Cole, and 16-year-old stepson, Michael Moore. All three victims were shot multiple times with various weapons. The SWAT team responded to the incident and eventually gained entry to Isom’s apartment, finding him in a bedroom with the guns and blood from all three victims on his clothing.

The jury recommended the death penalty and the trial court sentenced Isom to three death sentences to be served consecutively.

In Kevin Charles Isom v. State of Indiana, 45S00-0803-DP-125, Isom appealed, raising several claims, including that certain for-cause challenges of certain jurors should have been granted; his jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter should have been given and allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

The justices rejected all of his claims, finding no error by the judge to not dismiss certain jurors and the lack of sudden heat to support an instruction on voluntary manslaughter. Comments by the prosecutor during the penalty phase – that Isom failed his wife as a partner and his children as a father – stepped over the line because it is misconduct for a prosecutor to request a jury to return a death penalty for anything other than the mitigating factors are outweighed by the aggravating factor or factors, Justice Robert Rucker wrote. But Isom did not object at trial to the state’s remarks and they do not amount to fundamental error. Any harm done by the remark was minimal and not substantial based on the other evidence, the justices held.

His death sentence is appropriate given the nature of the crimes, but the trial court erred in imposing consecutive life sentences. The death penalty is not a “term of imprisonment” that would allow for the imposition of consecutive sentences, so the trial court exceeded its statutory authority by ordering the death sentences served consecutively, Rucker wrote.

The case is remanded for the trial court to issue a new sentencing order.