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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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