Court upholds murder conviction

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a Brown County man's murder conviction, finding there was sufficient evidence to show he killed his wife in 2003.

The man, Michael B. Smith, appealed his conviction, arguing evidence was admitted in violation of Indiana Evidence Rule 404(b) and that it was insufficient to support his conviction. Smith was found guilty of killing his wife Linda, whom he claimed he found alone in their hot tub after he fell asleep earlier in the evening.

In Michael B. Smith v. State of Indiana, No. 07A05-0701-CR-50, the appellate court unanimously found the admittance of testimony from first responders, police, doctors, relatives of Smith's wife, and co-workers - Smith only objected to one person's testimony at trial - was not a fundamental error by the trial court. The witnesses testified about how Linda's body wasn't wet even though Smith claimed he pulled her from the hot tub and his clothes and the area around the hot tub were not wet when first responders arrived.

Some testified how Linda was different when Smith was around, and how their business was in financial trouble. Their testimony also indicated Linda suffered verbal and sometimes physical abuse at the hands of her husband.

A part of the state's theory for Smith's motive to kill Linda was a financial one. Their business was in trouble and he had taken out life insurance polices only on Linda. He also cashed in her pension to support the business.

There was no error by the court to allow admission of Smith's behavior and treatment of his wife, including preventing her from giving out her phone number, requiring her to check in with him, and making derogatory comments toward her, Judge Melissa May wrote.

The trial court conducted a hearing on the state's notice of intent to use 404(b) evidence and ordered that a large portion of it be based on recent observations. The court also gave limiting instructions, and as a result, didn't abuse its discretion, she wrote.

The state also provided ample evidence as to his motive to kill Linda. Smith's story of how he found Linda, how she may have died, and what he was doing before he discovered her body alone in the hot tub was inconsistent, the judge wrote.

"There was sufficient evidence for a rational jury to find Michael guilty of murder," Judge May wrote.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues