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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. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

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