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Justices question prosecutor’s tactics, but decline to award new trial

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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that while a Marion County prosecutor committed one instance of prosecutorial misconduct during a man’s trial for sexual misconduct with a minor, the effect of this misconduct did not make a fair trial for the defendant impossible.

“We recognize only a single instance of prosecutorial misconduct, namely that the prosecutor improperly urged the jury to convict the defendant for reasons other than his own guilt. But we decline to conclude that the trial court erred by not correcting the prosecutor’s misstatements,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote in Bruce Ryan v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1311-CR-734.

The justices found no prosecutorial misconduct when the prosecutor commented on Ryan’s constitutional rights to a jury trial or on the truthfulness of the victim.

Bruce Ryan, an eight-grade science teacher, was charged with three counts of Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor after he had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. He was convicted on two counts, and on appeal, argued the convictions should be overturned due to remarks made by the deputy prosecutor during closing arguments.

The prosecutor alluded to “the bigger picture,” mentioned other perpetrators such as a teacher or pastor, and then implored the jury to “send the message that we’re not going to allow people to do this.”

“This clearly invited the jury to convict this defendant for reasons other than his own guilt, therefore constituting improper conduct,” Dickson wrote.

But Ryan’s failure to contemporaneously object and enable the trial court to take correct action resulted in procedural default of his appellate claim. The high court found no fundamental error occurred, requiring reversal of his convictions.

“Without question, the characterization of defense counsel’s line of argumentation as ‘how guilty people walk’ and a ‘trick,’ is inconsistent with the requirement that lawyers ‘demonstrate respect for the legal system and those who serve it, including … other lawyers,’” Dickson wrote. “But the defendant has failed to establish that, under all of the circumstances, such improper comments placed him in a position of grave peril to which he would not have been subjected to otherwise.”

“While we do not endorse the prosecutor’s trial tactics in this case, we affirm the judgment of the trial court,” Dickson wrote.

Justice Robert Rucker concurred in result without a separate opinion.  
 

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  1. The $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

  2. $160k? Yesterday the figure was $320k. Which is it Indiana Lawyer. And even more interesting, which well connected law firm got the (I am guessing) $320k, six time was the fired chancellor received. LOL. (From yesterday's story, which I guess we were expected to forget overnight ... "According to records obtained by the Journal & Courier, Purdue spent $161,812, beginning in July 2012, in a state open records lawsuit and $168,312, beginning in April 2013, for defense in a federal lawsuit. Much of those fees were spent battling court orders to release an independent investigation by attorney John Trimble that found Purdue could have handled the forced retirement better")

  3. The numbers are harsh; 66 - 24 in the House, 40 - 10 in the Senate. And it is an idea pushed by the Democrats. Dead end? Ummm not necessarily. Just need to go big rather than go home. Nuclear option. Give it to the federal courts, the federal courts will ram this down our throats. Like that other invented right of the modern age, feticide. Rights too precious to be held up by 2000 years of civilization hang in the balance. Onward!

  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

  5. It's just an ill considered remark. The Sup Ct is inherently political, as it is a core part of government, and Marbury V Madison guaranteed that it would become ever more so Supremely thus. So her remark is meaningless and she just should have not made it.... what she could have said is that Congress is a bunch of lazys and cowards who wont do their jobs so the hard work of making laws clear, oftentimes stops with the Sups sorting things out that could have been resolved by more competent legislation. That would have been a more worthwhile remark and maybe would have had some relevance to what voters do, since voters cant affect who gets appointed to the supremely un-democratic art III courts.

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