Court clarifies decision on jury instructions

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The Indiana Court of Appeals granted the state’s request for rehearing on a case in which the judges found the trial court erred in not giving a defendant’s tendered jury instruction, but that the error was harmless. The state contended that two cases dictated that there was no error by the court.

A panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed Joseph Matheny’s conviction of Class D felony auto theft, but in doing so, concluded the trial court erred in refusing his tendered jury instruction regarding the jury’s duty to conform the evidence to the presumption that a defendant is innocent. But when looking at the totality of the circumstances, the judges originally held the error was harmless.

On rehearing in Joseph Matheny v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1207-CR-347, the state argued that the COA’s previous ruling conflicts with Santiago v. State and Albores v. State, which were decided by the appellate court in March and April 2013, respectively. In those decisions, the judges found that the concept that the jury should attempt to fit the evidence to the presumption that the accused is innocent was adequately covered by the trial court’s instructions. Those decisions also distinguished Lee v. State, 964 N.E.2d 859 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), in which jury instructions were not as detailed and the jury was not instructed that the presumption of innocence prevails throughout trial.

“As in Lee, the jury in this case was not instructed that the presumption of innocence prevails throughout the trial. Accordingly, we reach a different conclusion than Santiago and Albores because the instructions that the trial court gave the jury did not adequately convey the substance of Matheny’s tendered instruction,” Judge Terry Crone wrote Monday.

“In this case, such an instruction was requested, refused, and not adequately covered by the given instructions, and therefore the trial court abused its discretion.”

The appellate panel also denied the state’s claim that it used a “magic words” approach in its original decision and failed to consider the entirety of the jury instructions given at trial. Crone wrote that the state’s argument simply ignores the fact that the instructions in Matheny were different from those given in Santiago and Albores.



  • Constitution
    Indiana Constitution: Article 1, Section 19. In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts.

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  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.