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Justices: No error in declaring mistrial

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A trial court's determination to discharge a jury at a defendant's second trial wasn't an abuse of discretion, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

At issue in Gary Dennis Jackson v. State of Indiana, No. 39S01-0907-CR-309, was whether the jury at Gary Dennis Jackson's second trial for battery should have been dismissed and whether Jackson's conviction at his third trial violated double jeopardy rules. Jackson's first trial ended in a hung jury; the same day the jury was sworn in for his second trial, a newspaper article ran about the trial with an excerpt from a letter Jackson wrote to the prosecutor trying his case. The state requested a mistrial because it believed an admonishment to the jury couldn't overcome the prejudice against the state created by the article. Five jurors admitted to being exposed to the article. The trial court granted the motion for mistrial.

At Jackson's third trial, he was convicted of Class C felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, finding the trial court abused its discretion in granting the mistrial and the retrial was barred by double jeopardy.

Citing various United States Supreme Court and Indiana appellate decisions on mistrials, the Supreme Court found the trial court's decision to grant the mistrial and order a new trial wasn't an abuse of discretion. The justices disagreed with Jackson that the trial court had to make explicit findings or give explanations as to why it granted the mistrial. The trial court also wasn't required to admonish the jury or attempt other measures before declaring the mistrial.

"The trial court's decision is bolstered by the fact that the jurors were exposed to the article the same day they were impaneled and the mistrial was declared the next day. This was before any evidence was introduced, and even before opening statements," wrote Justice Theodore Boehm.

The justices also affirmed the exclusion of a paramedic's testimony that while he was treating the victim, someone said that the victim fell and hit his head against the wall. The paramedic's account was hearsay and not admissible under any exclusions. The high court also found sufficient evidence to support Jackson's conviction.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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