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COA finds no error in Class A felony attempted robbery conviction

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After determining it had jurisdiction over a defendant’s appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction of Class A felony attempted robbery instead of a lesser-included offense.

In James Denning v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1208-CR-394, the appellate court was first tasked with deciding whether it had jurisdiction to consider James Denning’s appeal because he filed his notice of appeal before the trial court decided the issue of restitution. Denning was charged with and convicted of Class A felony attempted robbery for shooting Derek Schaffer while the two went to look at a place Schaffer wanted to rent. The state sought restitution, but was awaiting medical bills from Schaffer. The trial court said it would leave restitution open, but the final written sentencing order did not mention restitution.

“We have jurisdiction, as the trial court found Denning guilty and entered a judgment of conviction. The trial court, despite its oral statement it would ‘leave restitution open,’ entered a final sentencing order that did not impose restitution. Under those circumstances, we will not deprive Denning of his day in court based solely on a statement made during a hearing,” Judge Melissa May wrote.

The judges rejected Denning’s claim that there was insufficient evidence to convict him because Shaffer’s testimony was incredibly dubious.

“We decline to hold a witness’ statements are necessarily ‘incredibly dubious’ just because the witness is ‘evasive,’ ‘not forthcoming,’ or ‘reluctant’ to reveal information, especially where, as here, the challenged information has no apparent relevance to the elements of the offense with which the defendant was charged. Nor will we hold a statement is, regardless of its content, ‘incredibly dubious’ just because it is ‘squirrely,’” May said, referring to the trial court’s characterization of Schaffer’s version of the events as “squirrely and evasive.”

The COA also upheld the Class A felony conviction instead of a lesser Class C felony offense. Denning had a bench trial and “we presume that a trial court knows the law in Indiana,” May said. The state chose to charge him with Class A felony attempted robbery, and the state provided ample evidence to support that conviction.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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