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COA: Prosecutor had ability to provide use immunity

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The Indiana Court of Appeals relied on state Supreme Court precedent to find a Shelby County prosecutor could compel parents to testify by providing use immunity. The parents argued the prosecutor couldn’t grant use immunity because there were no grand jury proceedings and they hadn’t been charged with a crime.

In In Re: Prosecutor's Subpoena Regarding S.H. and S.C.; S.H. v. State of Indiana, 73A01-1109-CR-468, the prosecutor petitioned for subpoenas to compel parents S.H. and S.C. to testify about the circumstances surrounding the birth of their child in 2010. S.C. gave birth at home and when she and the baby went to the hospital, the baby showed signs of injury in the form of multiple puncture wounds.

The trial court quashed the subpoenas on the grounds that they violated the parents’ right against self-incrimination, so the prosecutor asked for use immunity to make the parents speak about the birth and injuries. The trial court granted the motion and ordered the parents to testify even though they hadn’t been formally charged with a crime. The trial court also denied the parents’ motion to correct error.

The Court of Appeals found that a prosecutor investigating a crime before charging someone and without a grand jury does have the same authority to grant use immunity as a prosecutor using a grand jury. The trial court cited In Re Order for Ind. Bell Te. To Disclose Records, 274 Ind. 131, 134-35, 409 N.E.2d 1089, 1091 (1980), in support, and determined that such authority is implicit in the office of the prosecutor itself.

The appellate judges disagreed with the judge on that point, finding that a prosecuting attorney only has powers that are prescribed by statute. But, they pointed out that Indiana Bell decided that the investigatory powers of a prosecutor parallel those of the grand jury, and that the prosecutor has the same ability to accumulate evidence as the grand jury. It doesn’t matter that the issue in Indiana Bell did not involve self-incrimination, the judges held.

“While Parents’ argument is persuasive, we cannot reconcile the result they advocate with our Indiana Supreme Court’s statement that a prosecutor has the same ability to accumulate evidence as does a grand jury. We must agree with the State that the legislature’s explicit reference to grand jury proceedings in Ind. Code § 35-34-2-8 cannot be read to restrict the right of a prosecutor to seek use immunity when prosecution is initiated by means of an information rather than an indictment,” Judge Melissa May wrote. “Nor could the legislature have intended that prosecutors have fewer investigative tools before deciding to bring charges than they do after charges are brought.”

 

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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