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Indiana Supreme Court endorses new jury instructions for mentally ill defendants

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Although it affirmed the judgment of the post-conviction court in denying relief, the Indiana Supreme Court endorsed a change in jury instructions regarding mentally ill defendants.

Brad Passwater appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in part, because the instructions approved by the Indiana Supreme Court were misleading, leaving the jury to believe he could be released from an outpatient facility 90 days after being found guilty of murder.

At his trial for the murder of his mother, Passwater’s counsel requested jury instruction on the penal consequences of guilty but mentally ill and not responsible by reason of insanity verdicts. Instead, the trial court gave the instructions approved by the state Supreme Court in Georgopulos v. State 735 N.E. 2d 1138, 1143 n.3 (Ind. 2000).

In Brad W. Passwater v. State of Indiana, 48S05-1210-PC-583, the Indiana Supreme Court reconsidered the Georgopulos instructions which are given in cases where the jury is faced with the option of finding a defendant not responsible by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill.

The court noted the second part of the Georgopulos instruction tried to synthesize the relevant portions of the state statutes. However, the court emphasized the composite is not without flaws.

Specifically, the approved Georgopulos instructions includes the phrase: “If, upon the completion of the hearing, the court finds that defendant is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled, then the court may order the defendant to be committed to an appropriate facility, or enter an outpatient treatment program of not more than ninety (90) days.”

The court then turned to the instruction provided in the Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction 11.20.

There, the phrase is rewritten as: “If the court finds that the Defendant is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled then the court may order the Defendant to be either placed in an outpatient treatment program of not more than ninety (90) days, or committed to an appropriate mental health facility until a court determines commitment is no longer needed.”

Writing for the court, Justice Robert Rucker concluded, “We are of the view that the Pattern Instruction represents an improvement over the instruction this Court found appropriate in Georgopulos and thus endorse and approve its use.”




 

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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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