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Court upholds man’s conviction for confining wife’s sister

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Although a prosecutor made an inappropriate comment during a man’s trial for criminal confinement, that comment had little persuasive effect on the jury, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The judges affirmed Jonathan Stephens’ conviction of Class C felony criminal confinement.

Prosecutors charged Stephens following an incident involving his wife, Brittany, and her sister Hannah Dickerhoff. Brittany Stephens and Dickerhoff were at the YMCA when Jonathan Stephens showed up and began arguing with his wife. At one point, he dragged Brittany to his car, which led Dickerhoff to jump in, fearing for her sister. Jonathan Stephens refused to stop the car, but eventually he stopped and pushed Dickerhoff out, causing injury to her hand.

Jonathan Stephens faced charges involving his sister-in-law and his wife, but Brittany Stephens said during his trial that she entered his car voluntarily and did not ask to be let out. Jonathan Stephens was convicted only related to Dickerhoff. He received eight years on a criminal confinement conviction, one year on a battery conviction and eight years for being a habitual offender.

In Jonathan Stephens v. State of Indiana, 85A02-1306-CR-518, Stephens claimed that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support his criminal confinement conviction, that he received ineffective assistance from his trial attorney, and the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing arguments.

“The evidence shows that Dickerhoff entered Stephens’s vehicle after witnessing him drag Brittany to his vehicle. Stephens left the YMCA and began driving around the Wabash area. Stephens ignored Dickerhoff’s repeated pleas to let her out of the car. Eventually, Stephens even drove to another city and did not stop to let Dickerhoff out of the vehicle. When Dickerhoff called 911, Stephens still did not stop the car to let her go. Instead, he later stopped, grabbed Dickerhoff’s phone, and removed its battery. In this case, there is ample evidence from which a jury could conclude that Stephen criminally confined Dickerhoff,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote.

Jonathan Stephens failed to show any prejudice was caused by his attorney’s failure to object to the line of questioning regarding a no-contact order between Jonathan and Brittany Stephens. And the judges held that most of the prosecutor’s comments were not improper. There was one statement that implied that if the jury convicted Jonathan Stephens, it would be a community service. But because he didn’t object during trial, he had to prove fundamental error, which he did not. The totality of the circumstances showed the improper comments had little persuasive effect on the jury, Pyle wrote. The jury’s verdict is supported by the evidence.

The COA remanded with the trial court to correct the sentencing order, abstract of judgment and chronological case summary to reflect the eight-year habitual offender enhancement serves as an enhancement to the Class C felony criminal confinement conviction.
 

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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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