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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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.