Attempted murderer may adopt under statute

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Under Indiana statute for adoption, attempted murder isn't listed as a conviction that would prohibit a court from granting the adoption, but aggravated battery is. Because a man was ultimately only convicted and sentenced for his attempted murder charge and the trial court didn't enter a conviction against him for aggravated battery, his adoption of his nephew should be allowed to proceed, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In the case In Re the Matter of the adoption of J.L.S., a minor child,  No. 45A03-0811-CV-572, J.L.S.'s maternal uncle, W.S., filed a petition to adopt his nephew in Lake County. His niece made arrangements for her uncle and his wife to adopt her baby and terminated her and the baby's father's parental rights.

The trial court learned of the uncle's 1996 conviction of attempted murder in Illinois and allowed the proceedings to continue. A home study recommended the court allow W.S. to adopt his nephew, saying W.S. appeared to better his life after leaving prison, is a family man now and is bonded with the child.

The referee in Lake County requested W.S.'s records from Illinois because she wanted to see what he was charged with in case a conviction precluded him from adopting in Indiana. The referee also appointed a guardian ad litem for the child, who believed the child should be placed with his uncle and, if the statute prohibited W.S. from adopting, his due process rights would be violated.

The Illinois records showed a jury convicted W.S. of attempted murder and aggravated battery, but the trial court only entered a conviction and sentence on attempted murder. The referee denied the adoption based on the jury conviction of the aggravated battery, since someone convicted of that is prohibited from adopting in Indiana under Indiana Code Section 31-19-11-1(c). She then encouraged the uncle to appeal in the hopes the Court of Appeals would agree with the GAL and allow the adoption to go forward.

The appellate court did allow the adoption to proceed and reversed the referee's decision. I.C. Section 31-19-11-1(c) makes clear that if a petitioner has been convicted of one of the felonies listed, the court is prohibited from granting the adoption. The Court of Appeals examined W.S.'s criminal history and because the records show there were no judgments of conviction entered against the uncle except for attempted murder and he was only sentenced for that charge, he was only "convicted" of attempted murder, despite the jury convicting him of aggravated battery.

"Although Indiana Code § 31-19-11-1(c) lists several felonies that prohibit a court from granting an adoption, attempted murder is not one of them," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. "While this appears to be an oversight by our legislature in light of the fact that felony battery and aggravated battery are listed, it is not the role of the judiciary to rewrite a statute."

The appellate court reversed and remanded to determine whether adoption is still in the best interests of the child and whether the prospective parents are of sufficient ability to raise him pursuant to I.C. Section 31-19-11-1(a)(1) and (2).


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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise