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Court split on mother's battery conviction

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In a split decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals, the majority upheld a mother's conviction of battery against her daughter, but one judge felt her conviction had to be overturned in light of a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision.

In Janella Matthew v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-0801-CR-17, Court of Appeals Judges Margret Robb and Patricia Riley affirmed Janella Matthew's Class A misdemeanor battery conviction against her 12-year-old daughter, J.M.

The daughter had misbehaved all day and hit her brother in the face, cursed at her mother, and then locked herself in the bathroom. Matthew got into the bathroom, hit J.M. on her legs and arm with a closed fist, and later hit the daughter several more times with her fist and a belt. She even tried to remove a blanket J.M. was wearing to get a better shot at her daughter with a belt. J.M. later testified the blows from her mother hurt.

The state presented sufficient evidence to prove that Matthew was guilty of battery against her daughter and found her actions toward her daughter didn't constitute reasonable corporate punishment. Matthew's repeated hitting of J.M. with a belt and a closed fist was not reasonable, Judge Robb wrote.

Chief Judge John Baker dissented in a separate opinion, finding that in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Willis v. State, No. 888 N.E.2d, 177, 180 (Ind. 2008), the Court of Appeals should have reversed her conviction. Although he agrees in principle with the result reached by the majority, the facts of the Willis case and the instant case are similar, he said. Both children were repeatedly warned by their parents to stop misbehaving and used progressive forms of discipline before resorting to striking their children repeatedly.

The chief judge agrees that the Supreme Court's decision constitutes a change in Indiana's policy toward child abuse, and even writes in a footnote that it's troubling that Indiana is headed in such a direction of allowing corporal punishment without directive from the legislature to do so.

While Chief Judge Baker wrote the trial courts in both cases concluded the mothers went beyond the boundary of reasonableness, the Supreme Court has instructed the appellate court to second-guess those conclusions as a matter of law. As such, he believes the court is compelled to reverse Matthew's conviction in light of Willis.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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