ILNews

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.  
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

ADVERTISEMENT