ILNews

COA rules on stipulation requirement

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Prosecutors must be allowed to present their cases as they see fit and not be forced into agreements, the Indiana Court of Appeals confirmed today.

In State of Indiana v. Harold Lewis, No. 72A05-0610-CR-564, the three-judge panel unanimously reversed and remanded the case to Scott Superior Judge Nicholas South. The trial judge had determined in 2006 to grant the defendant's motion prohibiting prosecutors from mentioning the death of the man who Lewis had shot. He was being tried on a felony charge of criminal recklessness that Lewis had "knowingly or intentionally inflicted serious bodily injury" onto Dennis Hensley by shooting him in the right leg with a shotgun. Hensley died a day later.

Lewis argued that mentioning Hensley's death would be prejudicial because the state already planned to present photos showing Hensley's wound and him lying in a pool of blood. Lewis agreed to a stipulation allowing prosecutors to tell the jury he'd caused "serious bodily injury," but the state refused. Judge South granted the motion preventing a mention of Hensley's death and allowing the stipulation.

On interlocutory appeal, the state contended it should be able to present its case how it wishes and not be forced into a stipulation, while Lewis argued that "serious bodily injury" was abundantly clear from the photos not being challenged at trial and that mentioning death wouldn't be relevant but would be unfairly inflammatory.

The appellate court disagreed. Judge Terry Crone wrote that caselaw has already determined death falls into the category of serious bodily injury; he cited Nelson v. State, 664 N.E.2d 386, 388 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996) as authority. In deciding that the state couldn't be forced into the stipulation, the court relied on Perigo v. State, 541 N.E.2d 936, 940 (Ind. 1989) that held a party can refuse to stipulate to any facts; and Hines v. State, 801 N.E. 2d 634, 635 (Ind. 2004), that held the state is entitled to prove its case by evidence of its own choice and criminal defendants can't stipulate their way out of full evidentiary forces of a case being presented.

"Applying the aforementioned law to the present dispute, we must conclude that while Lewis was free to request a stipulation regarding serious bodily injury, the State was not required to agree," Judge Crone wrote, noting that all gory photos and the fact that Hensley died are "fair game" as long as they adhere to the Indiana Rules of Evidence.

In today's opinion, Judge Crone also wrote a footnote on Page 6 of the opinion pointing out an eight-month delay in this case being transferred from the appellate clerk's office to the court - despite it being an interlocutory appeal that gets expedited according to the state's appellate rules. This is the fifth such delay pointed out in opinions since late last year, although the appellate clerk has told Indiana Lawyer that the internal office backlog causing delays was resolved in late February. None of the opinions to date have described delays occurring since then.
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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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