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COA: Court properly denied instruction on innocence

March 5, 2013

A Lake Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in denying a jury instruction on the presumption of innocence submitted by a man on trial for murder and neglect of a dependent, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

In Nelson Julian Santiago v. State of Indiana, 45A03-1207-CR-304, Nelson Julian Santiago was charged with murder, battery, aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent in connection to his four-month-old daughter’s death. She died from bleeding in the brain. The state’s witness testified the baby died from shaken baby syndrome; Santiago’s expert testimony said that the bleeding could have been caused by a car accident the child was in a few months earlier or was a coagulation disorder similar to one the baby’s mother had.  Santiago was convicted of Class A felony neglect of a dependent.

The trial court refused to give Santiago’s jury instruction regarding the presumption of innocence, which was based on language from Robey v. State, 454 N.E.2d 1221, 1222 (Ind. 1983). The justices held the instruction given in that case on the theory of the defendant’s innocence must be given if requested, but ruled the trial court didn’t err in denying the presumption of innocence instruction based on the other instructions given to the jury.  

“Like Robey, a consideration of the jury instructions in this case taken as a whole demonstrates that the jury was properly instructed to presume the defendant innocent and demand that the State produce strong and persuasive evidence of guilt wholly at odds with innocence,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote in Santiago.

“A panel of this court has stated that Robey simply requires instructing the jury that it should fit the evidence to the presumption that a defendant is innocent. The instructions given by the trial court in this case — considered as a whole and in reference to each other — did that.”

The jury instructions in Santiago’s case appear to be based on the Indiana Pattern Jury Instructions, which is the preferred practice in Indiana, Robb noted.

 

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