ILNews

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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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