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COA reverses assisting criminal conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a woman's conviction of misdemeanor assisting a criminal Jan. 2 because the state failed to define "fugitive from justice" and prove the criminal was charged with an offense in another state and fled to Indiana.

In Darcy Lafferty v. State of Indiana, No. 65A01-0806-CR-314, the state charged Darcy Lafferty with assisting a criminal under Indiana Code Section 35-44-3-2 after she was seen with John Murphy, who was wanted by police, and told them he wasn't in her home when he actually was. Lafferty's defense counsel wanted the trial court to offer a proposed final instruction that defined a fugitive from justice as someone who is charged with criminal activity in one state and flees to another state. Her counsel relied on Frost v. State, 527 N.E.2d 228 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988), to enter the instruction. The trial court refused the proposed instruction.

In Frost, and in Myers v. State, 765 N.E.2d 663, 667 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), the court held a fugitive from justice was someone charged with criminal activity in one state and flees from that jurisdiction to another.

The state failed to present any evidence that Murphy had fled from one state to another. The state argued that the court should employ a broader definition of "fugitive from justice" to refer to anyone who flees from officers. While the appellate court agrees that I. C. Section 35-44-3-2 should apply to any defendant who harbors a criminal, regardless of where the crime was committed, the court doesn't believe it should overrule the holdings in Frost and Myers.

The state failed to use the alternative language in the statute that says the statute also applies to someone who assists another person "who has committed a crime, or is a fugitive from justice ...," wrote Senior Judge William I. Garrard. Had the state elected to charge Lafferty as having harbored John Murphy, "a person who has committed a crime" instead of "a fugitive from justice," then the proof at trial would have been adequate, the judge wrote. Instead, it only alleged Murphy was a fugitive from justice, and the state failed to prove he was a fugitive from justice under Frost. The Court of Appeals also noted that its research failed to find any Indiana case questioning or challenging the Frost definition.

The appellate court reversed Lafferty's conviction and ordered her discharged.

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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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