COA affirms mistrial denial

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's decision to deny a motion for mistrial and affirmed the defendant's conviction and sentence.

In Michael Hale v. State of Indiana, 43A05-0611-CR-647, Hale appealed his conviction for dealing in cocaine as a Class A felony and his 50-year sentence. He claimed the trial court erred in denying his motion for mistrial because he argued testimony from a witness implied Hale was previously involved in drug activity.

Lance Patrick and Josh Hamilton were asked by the Kosciusko County Drug Task Force to act as confidential informants to have their drug charges reduced or dropped. The pair agreed and met Hale, who they learned would sell them cocaine. Patrick and Hamilton went to Hale's home, and when Hamilton - who was wearing a recording device - came to the door, Hale sent him away saying he didn't trust him. Hamilton sent Patrick to purchase the drugs from Hale.

Hale was arrested the next day and both Patrick and Hamilton testified at the trial. Hamilton told the prosecutor that Hale didn't trust him "because he told me that his best friend wore a wire on him before." Defense counsel objected and the response was struck from the record. Later, Hamilton testified that Dustin Slone, who was sitting in the courtroom, had threatened him about his testimony at trial. Hamilton said Sloan called him that morning and told him not to testify or he would beat him. It wasn't until after Hamilton's questioning was complete that the trial court, outside the presence of the jury, asked for Slone to be escorted out. At that time, the defense counsel moved for a mistrial due to Hamilton's testimony.

The trial court denied that, and a jury found Hale guilty.

Hale appealed, saying the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial because Hale believes Hamilton's testimony that Hale said his best friend had worn a wire implied that Hale was previously involved in drug activity. Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in the opinion that Hale failed to show that the trial court's action of striking Hamilton's response was insufficient to rectify the situation.

Hale also argued his motion for mistrial should have been granted because of Hamilton's testimony that Slone threatened him the morning of the trial. Defense counsel did not object immediately after Hamilton made the comment, nor did they during redirect or cross-examination of Hamilton. It was only after a 10-minute recess and after Slone had been escorted out that the defense counsel moved for a mistrial on the basis of Hamilton's testimony.

Because Hale did not object to the testimony regarding Slone's threat during trial, he did not give the trial court a chance to rule on the admissibility of such evidence. His motion for mistrial came after Hamilton's testimony was complete, so Hale has waived this issue for review, Judge Vaidik wrote.

The court affirmed the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Hale's motion for a mistrial. The court also affirmed his conviction, citing sufficient evidence; his sentence is also appropriate, given Hale's 26 previous misdemeanor cases and prison time for dealing in cocaine.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues