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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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