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Court rules on parental discipline case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has held that a woman’s prior conviction for battering her daughter in a way similar to a current case is admissible pursuant to the state’s rules of evidence.

In Lavern Ceaser v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1106-CR-580, the appellate court affirmed several decisions by Marion Superior Master Commissioner Teresa A. Hall in a case involving a mother’s Class D felony battery conviction against her daughter.

The mother, Lavern Ceaser, was accused of battering her 9-year-old daughter by striking her on the arms, back, legs and bottom for as long as 15 minutes and causing the girl to cry and scream in pain. The girl showed a teacher at school the welts the following day and that teacher notified the local Department of Child Services, leading to this case. Ceaser had a previous Class A misdemeanor battery on a child conviction from 2006 involving the same child, who was then 7 years old. The daughter was removed from her mother’s care but then returned to Ceaser in 2008 just several months before this incident occurred.

After the state charged Ceaser with felony battery on a child and trial began, prosecutors wanted to introduce the prior conviction. The trial court ruled that the state couldn’t use the evidence in its case-in-chief but could use the evidence for rebuttal purposes if Ceaser relied on the parental privilege defense.

The mother testified at trial and said she’d tried various ways of disciplining her daughter unsuccessfully because the girl had apparently lied about homework and not keeping her bedroom clean. She said that the 2006 conduct may not have been reasonable, but the felt the 2008 discipline was reasonable. The jury convicted Ceaser, who received a 545-day sentence, with all of the time suspended to probation.

On appeal, Ceaser argued the trial court erred by allowing the prior conviction as evidence, that the court wrongly denied her motion to dismiss, and that evidence was insufficient to rebut her claim of parental privilege.

Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote the 17-page appellate opinion and acknowledged the potential for unfair prejudice was tangible, but the trial court properly limited the evidence and weighed the probative value versus the threat of prejudice.

Specifically, the appellate judges found that the prior conviction was admissible under the intent and lack of accident or mistake exceptions to Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b).

The court also concluded that the trial court properly denied Ceaser’s motion to dismiss and that the trial evidence was sufficient to rebut her claim of parental privilege. Vaidik wrote that Ceaser’s appellate arguments attempt to minimize the harm to her daughter and insist that the mother’s behavior was not excessive but justified. The court described that as an invitation to reweigh the evidence, and it cannot do that.

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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