ILNews

SCOTUS denies 2 Indiana cases

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take two Indiana cases, including one that inspired the law requiring child molesters to register their addresses on a public database.

In a list of certiorari denials released May 12, the nation's high court announced it wouldn't review the Hoosier cases Christopher Stevens v. Ed Buss, No. 07-7745, and Christopher J. Stephens v. Indiana, No. 07-9858. Both had been reviewed at the court's private conference last week.

Stevens is the case that inspired Zachary's Law. He was the man convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for murder of 10-year-old Zachary Snider in Cloverdale two years earlier. Originally, the case was moved from Putnam County to Tippecanoe County and progressed through the state's appellate system; the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed that conviction and sentence in Stevens v. Indiana, 691 N.E.2d 412 (Ind. 1997).

U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp at the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond also denied Stevens' claims for habeas corpus, but on June 18, 2007 the 7th Circuit set aside the death penalty unless the state offered a new sentencing hearing.

The three-judge panel - led by authoring Judge Diane Wood - held that Stevens' defense counsel should have pursued more mental health experts and evidence, but Judge Daniel Manion disagreed and wouldn't have granted relief. Judge Kenneth Ripple also wrote separately to say he would've taken relief a step farther in that he thought the ineffective counsel also affected Stevens' conviction.

In the certiorari petition filed late last year, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter argued that the federal appellate decision ignored the state court's prejudice analysis and failed to defer to those decisions. Counsel isn't required to continue looking for experts just because one gave an unfavorable opinion, Carter wrote.

"The state courts explained that Stevens suffered no prejudice from any of counsel's potential errors in developing and presenting mental health evidence because the objective facts of the crime and Stevens' own confession 'strongly contradict' the notion that he was insane or impaired at the time of the crime," the petition stated.

Now, the case returns to the trial level. Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said he heard from the attorney general this morning and said the process will now start for a new jury trial for the death penalty. Tippecanoe Superior Judge George Heid, who'd originally sent Stevens to death row, has since died and a new judge will be assigned.

Meanwhile, in Stephens, the court declined to consider an Elkhart County case that the Indiana Court of Appeals had decided in an October opinion, No. 20A05-0702-CR-95. The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer in December 2007, and Stephens filed a certiorari petition at the nation's highest court in March. The appeal involved Stephens' felony conviction for nonsupport of a dependent and touched on various issues, including his inability to pay and whether the trial court properly denied his challenge to a prospective juror.
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  1. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  2. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

  3. She must be a great lawyer

  4. Ind. Courts - "Illinois ranks 49th for how court system serves disadvantaged" What about Indiana? A story today from Dave Collins of the AP, here published in the Benton Illinois Evening News, begins: Illinois' court system had the third-worst score in the nation among state judiciaries in serving poor, disabled and other disadvantaged members of the public, according to new rankings. Illinois' "Justice Index" score of 34.5 out of 100, determined by the nonprofit National Center for Access to Justice, is based on how states serve people with disabilities and limited English proficiency, how much free legal help is available and how states help increasing numbers of people representing themselves in court, among other issues. Connecticut led all states with a score of 73.4 and was followed by Hawaii, Minnesota, New York and Delaware, respectively. Local courts in Washington, D.C., had the highest overall score at 80.9. At the bottom was Oklahoma at 23.7, followed by Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Indiana. ILB: That puts Indiana at 46th worse. More from the story: Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee and Maine had perfect 100 scores in serving people with disabilities, while Indiana, Georgia, Wyoming, Missouri and Idaho had the lowest scores. Those rankings were based on issues such as whether interpretation services are offered free to the deaf and hearing-impaired and whether there are laws or rules allowing service animals in courthouses. The index also reviewed how many civil legal aid lawyers were available to provide free legal help. Washington, D.C., had nearly nine civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty, the highest rate in the country. Texas had the lowest rate, 0.43 legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty. http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2014/11/ind_courts_illi_1.html

  5. A very thorough opinion by the federal court. The Rooker-Feldman analysis, in particular, helps clear up muddy water as to the entanglement issue. Looks like the Seventh Circuit is willing to let its district courts cruise much closer to the Indiana Supreme Court's shorelines than most thought likely, at least when the ADA on the docket. Some could argue that this case and Praekel, taken together, paint a rather unflattering picture of how the lower courts are being advised as to their duties under the ADA. A read of the DOJ amicus in Praekel seems to demonstrate a less-than-congenial view toward the higher echelons in the bureaucracy.

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