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COA: State must prove violation of statute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals addressed for the first time today whether under Indiana Code Section 35-48-4-16(b) a defendant only has the burden of placing the issue in question where the state's evidence hasn't done so.

In Kenneth Harrison v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-0807-CR-423, Kenneth Harrison appealed his convictions for Class A felony dealing in cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public park and Class B felony possession of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public park, arguing the enhancement statute for dealing or possession of drugs near a park constitutes a mitigating factor that reduces culpability so he doesn't have the burden of proof.

The Court of Appeals examined Adkins v. State, 887 N.E.2d 934, 938 (Ind. 2008), and found the statute in question in the instant case doesn't excuse a defendant from culpability but operates only to reduce the level of culpability when certain factors are present, wrote Judge Terry Crone. A defendant has only the burden of placing the issue in question and then the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant was either within 1,000 feet of a public park more than "briefly," or people under the age of 18 were within 1,000 feet of the park.

The state failed to carry its burden in the instant case. The record shows Harrison was briefly within 1,000 feet of the park when he actually sold the cocaine to an undercover officer while walking, and the state failed to show Harrison was constantly within 1,000 feet of the park during the entire sale. There was also no evidence to show people under the age of 18 near the park at the time of the sale, given it was a dark, rainy, and windy night, wrote the judge.

The appellate court reversed his conviction for Class A felony dealing in cocaine and remanded with instructions to reduce the conviction to a Class B felony and re-sentence him on that count. The Court of Appeals also remanded to the trial court to vacate Harrison's conviction of possession of cocaine on double jeopardy principles because the same cocaine was used to support both convictions.

The Court of Appeals also addressed Harrison's argument that the prosecutor committed misconduct during his closing argument by making a statement that shifted the burden of proof to Harrison. Harrison had testified a couple gave him a ride downtown so he could by marijuana and someone else must have sold the undercover officer the cocaine. The couple didn't show up for trial. The appellate court determined the prosecutor's comments were improper but don't warrant a reversal Harrison's conviction.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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