Court denies Lower’s appeal for 2014 slaying

August 1, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed the 72-year sentence issued to Justin Lower for the August 2014 murder of Marcus Phelps outside Lucky’s Bar in La Porte.

In his appeal, the 29-year-old Lower argued the trial court committed reversible error by admitting a photo array into evidence; the trial court abused its discretion in admonishing the jury; and the prosecutor engaged in misconduct amounting to fundamental error during closing arguments.

The appellate court rejected each claim, concluding no reversible error, abuse in discretion or fundamental error had taken place. The court saw no cause for a new trial.

A jury convicted Lower of the murder August 2016. He was sentenced in September 2016 to 60 years for murder and an additional 12 years for being a habitual offender.

The habitual offender extension was due to two major felonies on Lower’s record – a Class B felony for dealing a controlled substance, and a Class D felony for escape – in addition to several other juvenile and adult charges.

According to previous reports, Lower admitted to stabbing Phelps in the parking lot behind Lucky’s Bar on Aug. 30, 2014.

According to his autopsy report, Phelps was stabbed nine times, which prosecutors said contradicted the self-defense claim Lower had taken during his trial.

Lower said he only recalled stabbing Phelps three or four times, all in the leg. But records showed three of the nine stab wounds were in the torso and pierced organs or vital arteries.

“The wounds were made by someone not defending themselves,” La Porte County Deputy Prosecutor Julianna Havens said during the trial.

During sentencing, Lower apologized to Phelps’ family, saying, “I’m sorry. I can’t take it back. I took him from your life.”

Lower said he was not racist and did not commit the crime because of hate. Witness testimony during the trial claimed Lower used a derogatory term to refer to several black individuals outside Lucky’s on the night of the murder.

“I wish I never went to that bar that night,” Lower said.

Factoring in good behavior, Lower’s earliest possible release date would be 2068.

He is being held at the Miami Correctional Facility in Bunker Hill.

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