Court orders new arson trial

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for a man convicted of arson because the trial court erred in letting the state amend the charging information after it had read the original charges to the jury.

David L. Gibbs v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1010-CR-1074, presented an issue of first impressions regarding when exactly a jury trial has "commenced" for purposes of amending charging information pursuant to Indiana Code 35-34-1-5(b). David Gibbs appealed his conviction of Class B felony arson, in which the trial court allowed the state to make a substantive amendment to the charging information after voir dire.

Gibbs was charged with three counts of Class B felony arson of a multi-family residence, with two of the charges specifically naming Gibbs' neighbors as having their residences damaged. He allegedly started the fire in his own apartment. The other charge named a business that had its property damaged. The state made amendments to two of the counts before the trial started, and read the amended charges to the jury during voir dire. Then, the state moved to amend the information to omit the neighbors' names. Gibbs objected, but the state allowed it.

The appellate judges found the state's amendments to Gibbs' charging information were substantive because as Gibbs had argued in his objection, he planned to argue he wasn't guilty of the charges because the fire did not actually cause damage to the two neighbors' apartments.

They looked to other jurisdictions to find it is a widely accepted rule that a jury trial begins with voir dire, so since Gibbs' trial had commenced with voir dire, allowing the estate to make substantive amendments to his information after that point was an error, wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

Gibbs also challenged the determination that he was competent to stand trial. He requested a psychiatric examination, in which two psychologists examined him. He was found not competent to stand trial and committed for competency restoration services. Months later, the trial court realized it didn't properly follow I.C. 35-36-3-1, which requires an examination by a psychiatrist as well, and appointed one to examine him. The psychiatrist was unable to personally evaluate Gibbs because he was uncooperative.

He was later found to be restored to competency, and the trial court denied Gibbs' motion for psychiatric examination to determine his competency.

Although the trial court erred by not originally having a psychiatrist examine him before his competency hearing, it was a harmless error because the trial court did not declare him competent to stand trial as a result of the error.

The judges vacated Gibbs' arson conviction and remanded for a new trial.  


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. This state's high court has spoken, the fair question is answered. Years ago the Seventh Circuit footnoted the following in the context of court access: "[2] Dr. Bowman's report specifically stated that Brown "firmly believes he is obligated as a Christian to put obedience to God's laws above human laws." Dr. Bowman further noted that Brown expressed "devaluing attitudes towards pharmacological or psycho-therapeutic mental health treatment" and that he made "sarcastic remarks devaluing authority of all types, especially mental health authority and the abortion industry." 668 F.3d 437 (2012) SUCH acid testing of statist orthodoxy is just and meet in Indiana. SUCH INQUISITIONS have been green lighted. Christians and conservatives beware.

  2. It was all that kept us from tyranny. So sad that so few among the elite cared enough to guard the sacred trust. Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Sophocles No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor. Theodore Roosevelt That was the ideal ... here is the Hoosier reality: The King can do no wrong. Legal maxim From the Latin 'Rex non potest peccare'. When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon

  3. So men who think they are girls at heart can use the lady's potty? Usually the longer line is for the women's loo, so, the ladies may be the ones to experience temporary gender dysphoria, who knows? Is it ok to joke about his or is that hate? I may need a brainwash too, hey! I may just object to my own comment, later, if I get myself properly "oriented"

  4. Heritage, what Heritage? The New Age is dawning .... an experiment in disordered liberty and social fragmentation is upon us .... "Carmel City Council approved a human rights ordinance with a 4-3 vote Monday night after hearing about two hours of divided public testimony. The ordinance bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, among other traits. Council members Rick Sharp, Carol Schleif, Sue Finkam and Ron Carter voted in favor of it. The three council members opposing it—Luci Snyder, Kevin Rider and Eric Seidensticker—all said they were against any form of discrimination, but had issues with the wording and possible unintended consequences of the proposal." Kardashian is the new Black.

  5. Can anyone please tell me if anyone is appealing the law that certain sex offenders can't be on school property. How is somebody supposed to watch their children's sports games or graduations, this law needs revised such as sex offenders that are on school property must have another non-offender adult with them at all times while on school property. That they must go to the event and then leave directly afterwards. This is only going to hurt the children of the offenders and the father/ son mother/ daughter vice versa relationship. Please email me and let me know if there is a group that is appealing this for reasons other than voting and religion. Thank you.