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Jurors may be asked mental health, suicide questions in Shuai case

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Potential jurors in the high-profile trial of a Chinese immigrant charged with murder for the death of her newborn daughter won’t have to disclose their religious or political views, but they will be asked whether they or people close to them have been treated for mental health issues, suffered the loss of an infant or attempted suicide.

Those and other supplemental questions may be provided in confidential juror questionnaires that Marion Superior Judge Sheila Carlisle will approve in coming weeks for the trial of Bei Bei Shuai. Carlisle on Friday ruled on several questions Shuai’s defense proposed. Prosecutors say the trial could last three weeks.

Carlisle urged defense and prosecuting attorneys to work together to revise questions that will be allowed with some modification. For instance, a proposed question about whether prospective jurors had traveled to China will be reworded. “I do not want to focus on a particular country,” Carlisle said.

Shuai is charged with murder and attempted feticide in the death of her daughter. In the waning days of 2010, Shuai attempted suicide by consuming rat poison after she was jilted by the baby’s father. After friends persuaded Shuai to seek medical attention, her daughter was delivered by Caesarian section but died a few days later.

A medical examiner’s testimony that rat poison was the cause of death was ruled unreliable and inadmissible, but the state has contracted with a Michigan pathologist to rule on a cause of death, the results of which have not yet been disclosed.

Friday, Carlisle ruled out seven of 15 proposed defense supplemental questions that would have asked potential jurors about their religious and political views. Prosecutors argued none of the proposed questions should be asked. “That’s crossing a line into the improper,” deputy prosecutor Courtney Curtis said of the proposed question, “Do you identify with a certain religious faith?”

Barnes & Thornburg LLP partner and jury selection expert Dennis Stolle joined Shuai’s defense and said that questions regarding depression, China and others were “attitudinal” in nature and aimed to ensure a fair and unbiased jury.

Stolle told Carlisle that he’d represented a defendant in a recent case in Hendricks County that involved a litigant who was Chinese. Jurors were asked in open court of their views of people from China, Stolle said, and “I was astonished by their responses. … It was unsettling.”

Carlisle estimated as many as 150 to 200 potential jurors may be called to fill out questionnaires and be considered for a jury she said would consist of 12 jurors and likely six alternates.   

Carlisle said she intends to inform jurors in the questionnaire of the case they’re being called for, the language of the criminal complaint, and identify attorneys and potential witnesses so that potential jurors with clear conflicts can be removed from the pool. Jury selection will begin Aug. 26 for the trial scheduled to start Sept. 3.

Meantime, Carlisle ordered attorneys to prepare final witness lists by July 3 and file opposition or support for exhibits by July 15.

The Shuai case became international news after charges were filed. Shuai's attorney Linda Pence says charges should never have been brought and they represent a criminalization of conduct for which men and non-pregnant women would not have been prosecuted.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said in an August interview that the language of criminal statutes under which Shuai is charged is plain, and he had no hesitation about filing charges once facts of the case were known because Shuai’s conduct fell within that language.

Carlisle acknowledged the hundreds of potential exhibits from prosecutors and the defense and made the pronouncement that rather than granting continuances, evidence would be stricken if it didn’t meet deadlines.

The judge restated her admonition that no further delays would be granted in a case that’s already well over two years old. “We do not have the luxury of parties waiting to file motions,” Carlisle said. “We are at the point where evidence is going to be excluded before we add additional time in this case.”
 

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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