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COA finds mentally ill man was aware actions were wrong

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a trial court in finding a man who is mentally ill was nevertheless aware of the wrongfulness of his actions.

In Luke Keys Carson v. State of Indiana, No. 29A04-1106-CR-278, Luke Keys Carson appealed his sentence for two counts of battery by means of a deadly weapon, burglary and resisting law enforcement. At trial, a jury found the man to be guilty but mentally ill, and not guilty of two counts of attempted murder.

In April 2009, Carson entered the unlocked trailer of a neighbor in a mobile home park, holding a black Bible and sheets of paper. The woman – Angelina Zuniga – spoke little English and did not understand what he was saying to her. After standing inside her trailer for a few minutes, Carson said “never mind” and left. When he returned later, Zuniga opened the door to ask him what he wanted, and he cut her hand with a knife. Zuniga and a friend forced the door shut, as Carson tried to force the door open from the outside.

That same morning, Carson got into a fight with Jorge Hernandez. Carson kept inching closer to Hernandez, asking him if he was “Richard,” and when Hernandez pushed him away, a fight ensued. Hernandez felt something “poking” him in the abdomen. He pulled Carson’s jacket up over the man’s head and saw that Carson had a knife. Hernandez ran and Carson threw the knife at him. After Hernandez saw Carson no longer had the knife, he returned, and the two began fighting again.

A police officer arrived, and Hernandez and Carson voluntarily stopped fighting. Hernandez pointed at Carson, who had retrieved his knife, and Carson fled. The officer told Carson to drop the knife or he would shoot, and while Carson dropped the knife, he continued to run until he tripped on gravel and fell. When another police officer arrived to assist, Carson asked for an attorney.

Two doctors performed a psychological evaluation on Carson in May 2009. They both concluded Carson had a psychiatric disorder that substantially disturbed his thinking and rendered him incompetent to stand trial. However, due to Carson’s confused state, they were not able to determine whether Carson could appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions at the time he committed them.

A competency hearing found Carson was not competent to stand trial, and he was committed to Logansport State Mental Hospital. On Oct. 25, 2010, Logansport filed a report notifying the court that Carson was competent to stand trial.

The COA agreed that while Carson’s demeanor showed that he was mentally ill, statements he made at the time of his arrest indicated he was aware of the wrongfulness of his actions. He apologized, and he made comments that his actions were “stupid.”

Carson argued that his burglary conviction was not supported by evidence. But the COA wrote that Indiana Code 35-43-2-1 provides that a person who breaks and enters a dwelling of another person with intent to commit a felony in it commits Class B felony burglary. In statements to police, Carson said he had gone into Zuniga’s trailer to kill a baby but could not do it. That statement shows that he was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of the intent to commit murder, even though there was no baby in Zuniga’s home.



 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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