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.



  • 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. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise