An attorney for 19-year-old Zachariah Blanton had appealed the sentence as inappropriate, arguing that the shooting “was a more or less routine act of manslaughter, if such a thing is said to exist.”
But in an eight-page ruling, the court disagreed, noting that the shooting terrorized drivers who had done nothing to make Blanton angry, and the trial court was free to consider that as an aggravating factor in his sentence.
“The harm to the motoring public is inherent to this offense — randomly and intentionally shooting at cars with a rifle from a highway overpass creates a public fear beyond that of the ’ordinary’ manslaughter in which the victim is at least associated with creating the sudden heat that results in the death,” the court wrote in its ruling Thursday.
Blanton pleaded guilty in December to charges of voluntary manslaughter and criminal recklessness. Blanton fired his hunting rifle into Interstate 65 traffic on July 23, 2006, from an overpass near Seymour, about 60 miles south of Indianapolis, killing 40-year-old Jerry L. Ross of New Albany. An Iowa man traveling in another pickup also was injured.
The defense said that Blanton had fired at Ross’ pickup in a sudden heat of anger after an emotional clash with relatives during a deer hunt.
Blanton’s attorney, Alan Wilson, also argued among other things that the judge improperly considered Blanton’s lack of remorse because the court record did not support such a finding. But the Court of Appeals found that the record did not mention remorse because Blanton never expressed any, and noted that he bragged about his crime while he was in jail.