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COA orders new trial in utility theft case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a theft conviction and ordered a new trial for a man who was prohibited from discussing a lesser offense during closing argument.

In the case of Edward J. Dixey v. State of Indiana, No. 82A05-1104-CR-172, Edward Dixey was convicted of Class D felony theft after an investigation revealed that utility equipment had been tampered with, allowing Dixey to use electricity without paying for it. On appeal, Dixey argued that the trial court erred when it prohibited him from discussing in closing argument that while the state failed to prove he had committed theft, it may have proven he committed a lesser offense instead.  

In August 2010, Dixey was renting a house in Evansville with roommate Steven Keller, who had also signed the lease. Dixey agreed to pay the rent, while Keller agreed to pay the cable and the electricity, which included gas. Although Dixey had placed the utilities in his name, he did not follow up with Vectren, the electric company, or any other utility company to ensure that the bills were being paid by Keller.

In August 2010, Dixey’s ex-wife, Carolyn, along with their two daughters and Carolyn’s son from a subsequent marriage moved in with Dixey. Around the same time, Dixey’s son, James, moved into the residence as well.

On Aug.16, 2010, Dixey arrived home to find that Vectren had disconnected his electricity for failure to pay an outstanding balance. Dixey testified that up until that day, he believed Keller had been paying the electric bill.

Dixey told Keller that he needed to have the electricity turned on by Aug. 18. Keller hired a friend to fix the electrical service box located on the outside of the house that had been damaged by high winds before the electricity had been disconnected. Dixey was not at home when the man performed the work, but the electricity was on when he arrived home that day. Dixey testified that James said he had the Vectren bill placed in his own name to “stop the friction going on” between Keller and Dixey, but Dixey did not call Vectren to confirm what James had told him.

On Aug. 31, 2010, a primary meter specialist for Vectren visited Dixey’s residence to investigate a report of a possible electrical service diversion and upon inspecting the weather head, which is the location where the Vectren wires connect with the customer’s wires, noticed that someone had tampered with them, thereby diverting electricity.

At trial, after all the evidence was presented, Dixey submitted four proposed jury instructions. Three of these instructions set forth the elements of what Dixey alleged were lesser-included offenses, including Class A misdemeanor criminal conversion, Class A misdemeanor criminal deception and Class B infraction utility fraud. The fourth instruction stated that “[i]t is a general rule of statutory construction that when general and specific statutes conflict in their application to a particular subject matter, the specific statute will prevail over the general statute.” The trial court instructed the jury on criminal conversion as an inherently lesser-included offense of theft but refused Dixey’s remaining tendered instructions.

The COA held it could not say that the trial court erred by refusing to allow Dixey to argue that under Indiana law, a specific statute prevails over a more general one, although he was free to argue that the evidence presented was more consistent with one of the lesser offenses, inasmuch as that was his defense. Accordingly, the appeals court reversed and remanded for a new trial.

 

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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