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COA reverses 4 attempted robbery convictions

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed four convictions of attempted robbery after finding the evidence didn't support a reasonable inference that the defendant intended to rob each of the alleged victims.

In Curtis Stokes v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-0905-CR-276, Curtis Stokes appealed his convictions of six counts of attempted robbery and one count of robbery in connection with the robbery of people inside a recording studio in Indianapolis.

Stokes and five other men entered the occupied studio and split up into different areas of the studio. One of the robbers drew a gun and held it to Andrew Steele's face, saying "Get down. You know what this is." Two other robbers took $200 from Edriese Phillips, and Collin Moore was shot in the leg while trying to get down on the floor but wasn't robbed.

Stokes argued the evidence was insufficient to support his five attempted robbery convictions as Class B felonies, one conviction as a Class A felony, and his Class B felony robbery conviction. Stokes was an accomplice in the crimes at the studio, but the conduct of Stokes and his co-defendants doesn't support that they were involved in the attempted robbing of everyone there.

The Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence to support Stokes' convictions as an accomplice for the robbery of Phillips, and attempted robbery of Steele and Moore. But they didn't find he attempted to rob four other people at the studio for which he was charged and convicted. The trial court was persuaded by the argument that the command "Get down. You know what this is," was directed toward each of the victims listed in the charging information and implied they were all about to be robbed.

But there's not enough evidence to support Stokes' convictions of attempted robbery of those four men. The appellate court found the California Court of Appeals' opinion in People v. Bonner, 80 Cal. App. 4th 759 (2000), to be instructive. The defendant and his brother planned on robbing a hotel manager and assistant of money and knew the route they took together to deposit the hotel's money. But they were discovered hiding in the laundry room before they could commit the robbery. The California court held since the defendant had the intent to rob the hotel workers and took acts beyond mere preparation directed at robbing them, he could be convicted of two counts of attempted robbery.

But in the instant case, Stokes never admitted to any intent to rob nor did he identify anyone he was going to rob, wrote Judge Edward Najam. The studio robbers targeted specific people, so there's not enough evidence to show specific intent to rob everyone.

The comments made by the robbers to get down, without more, is too ambiguous to support a reasonable inference that Stokes intended to rob each of the alleged attempted robbery victims, wrote Judge Najam.

The Court of Appeals also upheld the denial of Stokes' motion for mistrial after learning some jurors saw documents that stated he was incarcerated pending trial. He had waived the issue, and failed to show he was placed in a position of grave peril as a result of the jurors' exposure to those documents.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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