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Judge: better to assess defendant under mental health law, not criminal one

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In a resisting arrest and battery case that drew opinions from each of the sitting judges on the Indiana Court of Appeals panel, Judge Paul Mathias addressed the issue of whether the defendant suffered from a mental illness. He urged law enforcement to consider mental health intervention to treat troubled – but innocuous – conduct instead of relying on criminal law.

Phillip Griffin appealed his convictions of Class A misdemeanors resisting law enforcement and battery upon a law enforcement officer that stemmed from his fleeing from Lawrence police officer Matthew Miller. Miller stopped his patrol car after passing Griffin and believing he may be mentally unstable. Griffin shouted at the officer, threw “shadow punches” at the officer and then ran. Miller pursued and used his Taser; Griffin hit Miller as the officer attempted to handcuff him.

Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard wrote for the majority, which reversed the resisting conviction, but upheld the battery conviction. Shepard and Judge Paul Mathias departed from Cole v. State, 878 N.E.2d 882, 884 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), and its line of cases, in which the appeals court held that the resisting statute does not require that the order to stop be lawful. The majority focused on the state’s lack of evidence demonstrating grounds for detention.

“In the present case, the State explicitly argues that it need not establish any facts giving rise to probable cause or articulable suspicion that would have warranted detaining Griffin in order to sustain the conviction. Griffin appeared to Miller to be unstable, and he threw ‘shadow punches’ from a considerable distance before running away, but none of Griffin’s actions suggested any criminal offense,” Shepard wrote in Phillip Griffin v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1212-CR-964.

The majority declined to reweigh the evidence regarding the battery conviction and upheld it. Shepard and Mathias also reversed the order that Griffin perform community service in lieu of paying court costs and remanded to address the question of payment.

Judge L. Mark Bailey dissented from his colleagues regarding the reversal of the resisting law enforcement conviction. He cited Cole in support of his argument, writing he would follow the settled law as discussed in that case.

Mathias devoted his opinion to addressing concerns with Miller’s conduct in the case, especially since he suspected Griffin may suffer from a mental illness at the time in question. There are many people who appeared “troubled” but not to such an extent that requires an officer to intervene because he or she seems to be dangerous or disabled, he pointed out.

“Finally, it is important to remember that Officer Miller did what he was trained to do in the situation. What I hope and mean to suggest is that law enforcement officials throughout Indiana can best reaffirm their commitment to serve all of Indiana’s citizens by remembering the criteria for mental health intervention as an initial alternative to treating troubling and troubled, but otherwise innocuous, conduct as a possible crime,” Mathias wrote.
 

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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