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Judges reverse 8 forgery convictions based on fake ballot signatures

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A St. Joseph County man charged with multiple counts of forgery after falsifying signatures on an election ballot petition for Barack Obama in 2008 was not prejudiced when the state was allowed to amend the charging information at the end of his trial. But, the Indiana Court of Appeals held the evidence only supports convicting him of one count of forgery, not nine.

Dustin Blythe and three others were charged in 2012 after officials accused them of forging signatures on petitions to get Democratic presidential candidates on the primary ballot. Blythe was employed by the St. Joseph County Voter Registration Office at the time he allegedly falsified the ballot petitions.

Blythe faced nine counts of Class C forgery and one count of Class D felony falsely making a petition of nomination. The state alleged that he knowingly uttered a written instrument that purported to have been made by another person or by authority of one who did not give authority, by forging signatures on the election ballot petitions. Blythe’s defense focused on the term “uttered” and his attorney argued based on the definition, he did not do any of the things included under that definition.

After Blythe presented his defense, the prosecution moved to amend the charging information to instead say Blythe knowingly “made or uttered” the written instrument. Blythe argued allowing the change would prejudice him or require a new trial, but the judge allowed the amendment. Blythe was convicted as charged.

In Dustin Blythe v. State of Indiana, 71A03-1306-CR-228, the Court of Appeals found no error by the trial court in allowing the state to make the late change to the charging information. Judge Elaine Brown pointed out that the defense Blythe presented would have been the same if the change had been made before trial. He was able to present an appropriate defense to the amended charges, “and in fact did so from the commencement of his trial,” she wrote.

But the trial court did err when it denied his motion on the judgment with respect to forger counts II through IX. The evidence supports just one conviction of forgery because the falsified signatures were placed on ballot petitions during a relatively short period of time in the county and the placement of the falsified signatures was performed for a single purpose.

The judges ordered eight of his forgery counts vacated, as well as his conviction of Class D felony falsely making a petition of nomination because that is a factually lesser-included offense of the forgeries alleged in counts I through IX.

 

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  • still a historic case
    Fair enough appeal decision however it remains a historic case that shows up serious questions about the legitimacy of American socalled democracy. We hear a lot of condemnation of foreign elections in the news but ours don't always look so pretty. IN the instant case it was amazing that the democratic party was doing work for and rowing hard in favor of certain candidates in its own primary to the detriment of some serious and legitimate democratic primary contenders. Maybe we should take a look at reforming primary system so that entrenched candidates with tons of donors can't squash their challengers so easily. We might even be so daring as to consider proportional representation such as operates in other western parliamentary systems and allows for third party voices to actually be heard instead of always sidelined.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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