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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. 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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