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COA: Man wasn't denied fair trial by judge

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a man’s attempted murder conviction, finding the trial judge did not act in a way to deny the defendant a fair trial.

Cedric Tharpe was convicted of Class A felony attempted murder after he shot at a police officer. The officer heard shots fired, saw Tharpe running and asked him to stop. Tharpe looked at the officer for a few seconds, then began firing at him with an AK-47. The officer was not seriously hurt.

Tharpe argued on appeal in Cedric Tharpe v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-1101-CR-24, that Marion Superior Judge Lisa Borges’ behavior and rulings at his trial denied him the right to a fair and unbiased judge. He claimed comments Borges made during voir dire, her sustaining of certain state motions, and her facial expressions – including rolling her eyes – during the trial denied him the right to a fair trial.

“Tharpe has alleged only legally-correct adverse rulings, a single incidence of sarcasm, and inappropriate facial expressions,” wrote Judge Melissa May. “Adverse rulings, without more, do not amount to fundamental error, and the trial court admonished the jury to disregard any facial expressions made by the judge. Tharpe has not demonstrated he was denied a fair trial."

The appellate court also disagreed with Tharpe’s claim that the denial of his motion for a continuance was an abuse of discretion. Tharpe argued the denial further demonstrated the court’s impartiality and prejudiced his defense because the attorney didn’t have enough time to prepare. But by the time Tharpe’s case went to trial, he was on his fourth attorney and the trial had been continued several times. His trial attorney claimed she didn’t receive his case file until Sept. 1, 2010, and the trial was to be held Nov. 22, 2010. Citing previous caselaw, the judges found the attorney had adequate time to prepare for the trial.

The COA also found there was sufficient evidence to support Tharpe’s attempted murder conviction.

 

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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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