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Court orders new arson trial

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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.  
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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