Justices address forum-shopping

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Supreme Court has clarified that a defendant who claims forum-shopping has happened in a criminal case does not need to establish prejudice in order to prevail on appeal. While the justices found no violation occurred in Jesse J. Harris, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 34S02-1203-CR-169, and affirmed the trial court ruling, the court has asked Howard County judges to review a local rule.

The case involves a murder in April 2008, when Jesse J. Harris, Jr. and two others left a strip club in Kokomo and followed a white Monte Carlo. They shot one man and two underage girls, and one of those girls was killed. A jury convicted Harris and the court sentenced him to the maximum 165 years for three counts combined.

The Court of Appeals affirmed last year, and in granting transfer the Supreme Court summarily affirmed the COA’s decision on all but one issue. The claim involving the state’s violation of a case-filing rule is what the justices have now clarified.

On appeal, Harris argued that the only reason his trial occurred in Howard Superior 1 was because the prosecutors engaged in forum-shopping. The Howard Circuit and Superior courts adopted a rule providing for a weekly rotation among the Circuit, Superior II and Superior IV judges – requiring a prosecutor to file felony charges in the court designated by the weekly rotation based on when the offense occurred. An exception says that when a defendant already faces an earlier criminal charge in a court not on rotation, the prosecutor must file the felony charges in that court. In this case, Harris already had a pending criminal charge in Howard Superior 1.

The Court of Appeals found that Harris could not show he had suffered any prejudice and declined to address the merits of the claim, but the justices disagreed with that.

“We think that requiring a defendant to establish prejudice sets the bar too high and therefore hold that a defendant need not do so to win a reversal,” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote.

Harris argued that the “another charge pending” exception doesn’t apply because the first charge had already been resolved by the time the second charged was filed.

“Although Harris’s interpretation of Local Rule 29 has some force, the trial court’s reading of its own rule, approved here through the standard process, is a plausible one entitled to some deference on appeal,” Shepard wrote. “We are thus inclined to accept its interpretation and conclude that no violation occurred. Still, the shades of grey in Local Rule 29 that led to this dispute need sharpening up. We will therefore ask the judges in Howard County to draft amendments sufficient to prevent a recurrence.”



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.