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Judges split on stalking conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was divided Friday in reversing a man’s conviction of stalking. The decision hinged on their interpretations of the term “repeated” in Indiana’s anti-stalking laws.

Rodney Nicholson repeatedly called the Wolfe household in 2006, making lewd comments and noises over the phone when Patricia or one of her daughters answered. Nicholson even called the family from right outside their home. He pleaded guilty to voyeurism charges and was incarcerated. The calls stopped while Nicholson was incarcerated, but resumed on Nov. 1, 2008, when he called the home and made lewd comments and noises to Patricia.

He was convicted of Class C felony stalking and Class B misdemeanor harassment stemming from the lewd phone call in 2008 to Patricia. Nicholson challenged his stalking conviction, claiming insufficient evidence.

The state had to prove that Nicholson’s conduct under the stalking statute was “repeated or continuing” harassment. The majority concluded the one phone call in 2008 didn’t constitute repeated harassment and doesn’t support the conviction. Even if taking into consideration the 2006 conduct, the judges also concluded Nicholson couldn’t be convicted under the anti-stalking law.

There is little guidance as to what constitutes “repeated or continuing” for purposes of the stalking or harassment statutes, so the majority relied on the dictionary definition of “repeat” and an Alabama appellate court’s definition of “repeatedly” to hold that the term under the anti-stalking law means “more than once,” wrote Judge Michael Barnes in Rodney Nicholson v. State of Indiana, No. 55A01-1005-CR-251.

The majority noted that the Legislature could have put definitive time limitations in the statute and didn’t, and it believed the timeframe in which the conduct occurred is inherent to the inquiry whether harassment was “repeated or continuing.” Judges Barnes and Terry Crone felt Nicholson’s conduct from the 2008 phone call doesn’t fit any reasonable definition of “repeated or continuing harassment.”

Judge Cale Bradford dissented, writing, “Nicholson repeated essentially the same type of conduct aimed at the same victim. The gap of time between the repeated conduct, occasioned primarily by Nicholson’s incarceration for the first offense against the victim, is a non-factor under the wording of the Indiana stalking statute.”

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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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