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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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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