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Security concerns should be part of record

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The Indiana Supreme Court wants state trial judges to offer written guidance if and when courthouse or jury security concerns come up during trial.

In its Friday decision in Chawknee Caruthers v. State of Indiana, No. 46S05-0910-CR-431, the state’s five justices analyzed a high-profile murder case before LaPorte Superior Judge Kathleen Lang in 2008. The case involves Chawknee Caruthers’ shooting and killing a man after mistaking him for someone else, and a jury found Caruthers guilty of murder.

During the trial, the court took extra security measures to address juror concerns that aren’t specified in the record. The court ruling says that Caruthers’ lawyer, James Cupp from Michigan City, made a statement on the final day of trial: “There apparently is some information afloat which I would characterize as somewhat a thinly veiled allegation of jury tampering, and that concerns me greatly. Apparently, someone somewhere has received some information from a juror or jurors that one or more of them, the jurors, are feeling intimidated by actions that such juror or jurors attribute to my client. I wanted to make a record of that, Your Honor, because I think it’s a very serious allegation …”

Cupp didn’t ask the court to take any action, according to the Supreme Court decision, and the trial continued and resulted in the jury convicting Caruthers of murder and finding him to be a habitual offender. At the sentencing hearing, the trial judge acknowledged the extra security and alternative parking for jurors and said the court advised them of the ministerial aspects of the precautions, but no one ever informed the judge about anyone being personally approached or threatened.

On appeal, Caruthers argued the trial court didn’t adequately interrogate the jury about the effect those security concerns had on their impartiality. The Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 decision last year reversing the convictions, finding the lower court should have at least inquired about the issue.

But the justices disagree with that.

“To require jury interrogations in any case that calls for heightened security measures would amount to an extreme precaution against jury bias,” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote, turning to precedent to say that it can’t infer prejudice when none is shown and no relationship appears to exist between a juror and one of the parties.

But even with that, the justices do point out that lower court judges should offer as much guidance as possible to allow appellate courts to adequately review circumstances.

“We acknowledge that best practice would have been for the trial court to enter its observations into the record at the time action was taken, giving further description of the nature of the jurors’ concerns and its reasoning for taking the security measures it did and not anything more,” the chief justice wrote.
 

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  1. The voices of the prophets are more on blogs than subway walls these days, Dawn. Here is the voice of one calling out in the wilderness ... against a corrupted judiciary ... that remains corrupt a decade and a half later ... due to, so sadly, the acquiescence of good judges unwilling to shake the forest ... for fear that is not faith .. http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2013/09/prof-alan-dershowitz-on-indiana.html

  2. So I purchased a vehicle cash from the lot on West Washington in Feb 2017. Since then I found it the vehicle had been declared a total loss and had sat in a salvage yard due to fire. My title does not show any of that. I also have had to put thousands of dollars into repairs because it was not a solid vehicle like they stated. I need to find out how to contact the lawyers on this lawsuit.

  3. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  4. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  5. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

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