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COA affirms trial court in felony neglect case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a conviction of Class A felony neglect, holding the appellant was unable to prove that he should have been charged with a lesser offense.

In David L. Johnson, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 82A01-1103-CR-130, David Johnson claimed the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his request for jury instructions on lesser-included offenses. He also claimed that the court erred in admitting statements he made to a social worker and that he was a victim of prosecutorial vindictiveness.

A.J. was born to Johnson and Lori Record in September 2008. In January 2009, Johnson attended a voluntary counseling session with a social worker, whom he told he was concerned that he might become angry and hurt A.J. Personnel noticed a bruise on A.J.’s cheek and called child protective services to investigate, and a case manager subsequently ordered A.J. to be seen by a doctor and to have X-rays taken. An initial review of the X-rays showed no injuries.

On Feb. 9, 2009, A.J. died. A coroner found evidence of multiple injuries, and upon reexamining A.J.’s initial X-rays, a radiologist saw a fracture in A.J.’s clavicle. On April 7, the state charged Johnson with Class A felony neglect of a dependent. In 2010, Johnson agreed to plead guilty to a Class B felony neglect charge, but the trial court rejected that plea.  

The COA held that in order for Johnson to prove that he should have been charged with a lesser offense, he would need to prove a serious evidentiary dispute on the element of serious bodily injury. The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s decision to refuse Johnson’s proffered instructions on the lesser-included Class C and Class D felony offenses.

The appeals court also held that the court did not err in admitting a statement from the social worker whom Johnson met with prior to A.J.’s death, citing Indiana Evidence Rules 401 and 402.

Finally, the COA rejected Johnson’s assertion that he was a victim of prosecutorial vindictiveness, stating that precedent dictates actual vindictiveness occurs when a prosecutor’s charging decision was motivated by a desire to punish the defendant for something the law plainly allowed him to do.

 

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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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