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COA orders jury trial on animal cruelty charges

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An Evansville man convicted of six counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty due to the condition of horses on his property did not knowingly waive his right to a jury trial and, therefore, is entitled to a jury trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded.

Evansville Animal Care and Control went to Steven Duncan’s property to investigate a complaint and found 13 horses that appeared to be neglected, malnourished and ill. Three later had to be euthanized. Duncan admitted to owning and being responsible for the animals, but he offered no explanation for their conditions.

He was charged with 13 counts of Class A misdemeanor animal cruelty. At his initial hearing, Duncan appeared pro se. The judge noted Duncan’s right to a jury trial but did not mention the requirement to timely request a jury trial if one was desired or the consequences of failing to do so. Duncan later was represented by counsel, who did not request a jury trial.

Duncan was convicted of six of the 13 charges.

The Court of Appeals rejected the state’s arguments that Duncan was not prejudiced, that he consented to his counsel’s trial strategy and cannot now object, and that the judges should infer that Duncan was informed of his right to a jury trial because he was later represented by counsel.

But the state conceded that Duncan was not advised of the consequences of failing to ask for a jury trial and he was not advised of the requirement of a written demand for a jury trial 10 days before his scheduled trial date, Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote in Steven Duncan v. State of Indiana, 82A01-1201-CR-22. Having an attorney is not a sufficient substitute for the defendant being expressly advised of his rights, she noted.

The COA also addressed two points raised by Duncan on appeal that may impact his new jury trial – whether the animal cruelty statute is unconstitutionally vague and whether there was sufficient evidence to overcome a defense of necessity.

The judges found the statute is not vague as applied to Duncan and the state presented sufficient probative evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could have found Duncan guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They remanded for a jury trial.

 

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  • Not about the animals
    Glad you wrote about his case and pointed out how poorly it was handled. These animal "abuse" cases are never handled properly under the law, regardless of the State. Everybody wants to see the supposed abuser go to jail, but what no one cares about hearing about is whether or not the accused got a fair trial or how the animals were treated AFTER they were taken. Furthermore, no one who says they hate this guy for being an animal "abuser" would be able to prove they were not abusing their own animals if they were treated the same way. A few years ago there was a raid on a ranch near Waco, TX. The horses were thin and did not have water. It went to trial, the owners were convicted of animal "abuse." It was the middle of a very severe drought. The owners were never allowed to say, and obviously the idiot jury did not know, that there was a WATERING BAN ON LIVESTOCK at the time. It is not about the animals, it is about how much money they can make off fees, fines, donations, and resale.

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  1. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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