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Court rejects man's explanation of 'briefly'

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A man charged with a drug dealing offense near a school wasn’t entitled to a jury instruction stating he was only “briefly” within 1,000 feet of school property because the drug transaction was short in time even though it happened at his house, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Clarence Seeley Jr. appealed his conviction of dealing in a schedule III controlled substance as a Class A felony since he was within 1,000 feet of a school when dealing, and the finding he is an habitual offender. Seeley sold pills containing hydroquinone during a controlled drug buy from his home that lasted between five and 10 minutes. His property is 545 feet from a church’s school property and his front door is around 800 feet from the front door of the school.

The state proffered a jury instruction that said it’s a defense that the defendant was briefly in, on, or within 1,000 feet of school property and no one under the age of 18 was in, on, or within 1,000 of the school property at the time of the offense. The court refused the instruction on the basis that because Seeley lived where the drug buy happened, he was there for more than just a mere passing.

Seeley believed the jury instruction should have been allowed and the term briefly should have reflected the time of the drug buy, not how long he was within 1,000 feet the school. Thus, the statutory defense would be available to him, and he was entitled to have the jury instructed accordingly.

Citing Griffin v. State, 925 N.E.2d 344, 347, 349-50 (Ind. 2010), Judge Edward Najam wrote in Clarence Seeley, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 21A05-1003-CR-167, that the “briefly” language relates to Seeley’s presence in the prescribed zone, not the length of the transaction.

“To be sure, in some scenarios the defendant’s presence in the proscribed zone will be coextensive with the illegal transaction,” he wrote. “But that is not the case here, where Seeley lived within 1,000 feet of school property.”

Seeley also argued because of his extended stay in the proscribed zone that he is entitled to the statutory defense. He claimed the length of the transaction is what matters here because when taking in context his total stay in the proscribed zone, the time spent on the illegal transaction only minimally increased the risk to children.

“Applying ‘briefly’ in the manner asserted by Seeley would wholly negate that prong of the statutory defense. When a defendant lives in the proscribed zone and he has turned his home into a place where controlled substances may be illegally purchased, he cannot be in the proscribed zone only ‘briefly,’” wrote the judge.

The Court of Appeals also upheld that the state’s evidence of the testimony of the county surveyor regarding the distance between Seeley’s property and the school’s property was sufficient for the jury to find the property was school property. The judges reversed the habitual offender finding as his previous convictions were insufficient as a matter of law for him to be found to be a habitual offender. They remanded for re-sentencing.
 

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  1. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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