COA: Defendant had imperfect, yet fair trial

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Defendants are entitled to fair trials, not perfect ones, and the imperfections of one defendant's trial didn't deprive him of a fair trial, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals. The court upheld the murder conviction of John Myers II, who was convicted two years ago of killing IU student Jill Behrman in 2000. Authoring Judge Cale Bradford wrote in the 44-page opinion, John R. Myers II v. State of Indiana, No. 55A05-0703-CR-148, the court acknowledges there were certain discrete imperfections at Myers' trial, but these imperfections were isolated in nature and didn't deprive Myers the right to a fair trial. "As the State conceded at oral argument, Myers's trial may have been cleaner without these imperfections, but, separately or jointly, they were not sufficiently egregious to undermine our confidence in the trial proceedings leading to his conviction sufficient to constitute reversible error. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect one," he wrote.

Myers brought up numerous issues on appeal including the denial of his motion for change of venue, jury misconduct, and insufficient evidence to support the conviction. The appellate court unanimously upheld his conviction, which covered eight alleged errors by the trial court. On his motion for change of venue, Judge Bradford wrote that Myers failed to demonstrate community-wide prejudice requiring the change of venue, and the only biased statements in the record were made by jury pool members who weren't empanelled. Myers alleged that his motion for a mistrial should have been granted because the jurors violated rules regarding cell phone and telephone use and also violated rules about consuming alcohol. Myers again failed to show that the jurors' behavior harmed him or the outcome of his trial. There was no evidence any of the jurors were under the influence of alcohol during deliberations, Judge Bradford wrote. The appellate court also found sufficient evidence to support Myers' conviction.

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