ILNews

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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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