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COA: Court properly denied instruction on innocence

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A Lake Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in denying a jury instruction on the presumption of innocence submitted by a man on trial for murder and neglect of a dependent, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

In Nelson Julian Santiago v. State of Indiana, 45A03-1207-CR-304, Nelson Julian Santiago was charged with murder, battery, aggravated battery and neglect of a dependent in connection to his four-month-old daughter’s death. She died from bleeding in the brain. The state’s witness testified the baby died from shaken baby syndrome; Santiago’s expert testimony said that the bleeding could have been caused by a car accident the child was in a few months earlier or was a coagulation disorder similar to one the baby’s mother had.  Santiago was convicted of Class A felony neglect of a dependent.

The trial court refused to give Santiago’s jury instruction regarding the presumption of innocence, which was based on language from Robey v. State, 454 N.E.2d 1221, 1222 (Ind. 1983). The justices held the instruction given in that case on the theory of the defendant’s innocence must be given if requested, but ruled the trial court didn’t err in denying the presumption of innocence instruction based on the other instructions given to the jury.  

“Like Robey, a consideration of the jury instructions in this case taken as a whole demonstrates that the jury was properly instructed to presume the defendant innocent and demand that the State produce strong and persuasive evidence of guilt wholly at odds with innocence,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote in Santiago.

“A panel of this court has stated that Robey simply requires instructing the jury that it should fit the evidence to the presumption that a defendant is innocent. The instructions given by the trial court in this case — considered as a whole and in reference to each other — did that.”

The jury instructions in Santiago’s case appear to be based on the Indiana Pattern Jury Instructions, which is the preferred practice in Indiana, Robb noted.

 

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  • Innocent 'til proven guilty
    A defendan is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, so why do prosecutors ask defendants, can you prove you were at home, can you prove you are innocent. Doesn't the burden of proof rest with the prosecution?

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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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