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Court orders re-trial after jury instruction error

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a re-trial for a man convicted of attempted murder after ruling today the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury on accomplice liability.

In Robert Tiller v. State of Indiana, No. 45A03-0802-CR-78, Robert Tiller was convicted of attempted murder, confinement, and escape after he and three others bound Richard Cannon, put him in the trunk of a car, and Louis James shot Cannon once in the face after opening the trunk.

Although he didn't object to the jury instructions on attempted murder and accomplice liability for attempted murder at trial, Tiller argued on appeal that the instructions constituted fundamental error. The trial court instruction correctly stated the law as it generally pertained to accomplice liability, but the instruction didn't adequately inform the jury that the specific intent requirement for attempted murder also applied to accomplice liability for attempted murder, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

"We must therefore conclude, as did our Supreme Court in Hopkins, that the trial court's instruction on accomplice liability constituted fundamental error in that it failed to adequately instruct the jury that it was required to find that Tiller possessed the specific intent to kill Cannon when he aided, supported, helped, or assisted his accomplices commit the crime of attempted murder," wrote the judge.

There was sufficient evidence to support Tiller's conviction of attempted murder, so the appellate court remanded for a re-trial on the charge of attempted murder.

The Court of Appeals also found the state made a good faith effort and employed sufficient measures to find Cannon and secure his attendance at trial, so Tiller's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation wasn't violated when Cannon's disposition was read into evidence after he failed to appear to testify at Tiller's trial.

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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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