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Editorial: Threats are inappropriate way to voice an opinion

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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

Unless you’ve been under a rock of late, you know that the Indiana Supreme Court decided Richard L. Barnes v. State on May 12.

In that case, Barnes appealed his misdemeanor convictions of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting law enforcement, and disorderly conduct. Police were responding to a domestic violence call from Barnes’ wife; he was leaving the apartment they shared and was in the parking lot when police arrived. He went back to the apartment to get more of his belongings, and when police tried to enter the apartment, Barnes blocked their way. When an officer further attempted to enter the apartment, Barnes shoved the officer against a wall and a struggle ensued between the two.

Barnes’ counsel wanted to offer a jury instruction at trial on the right of a citizen to reasonably resist unlawful entry into the citizen’s home, but the trial court refused. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, and said the missing jury instruction was not harmless error.

Writing for the 3-2 majority, Justice Steven David wrote that the right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.

“Nowadays, an aggrieved arrestee has means unavailable at common law for redress against unlawful police action,” wrote Justice David, citing bail and the exclusionary rule as examples. “We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest — as evident by the facts of this instant case.” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan voted with Justice David.

Much has been said and will doubtless continue to be said about this ruling. Media outlets one typically doesn’t associate with relevant discourse on such weighty matters have been heard discussing the ruling. That’s a great thing – everyone should know and talk about the decisions of our judicial system that directly impact our lives.

What we want to address here is the troubling descent into madness that has appeared alongside the reasonable discourse on the subject. Some of the discourse quickly reached the point where police were called to investigate threats, veiled and otherwise. The troubling comments come from a few people who purport to defend their own liberties and their interpretations of the Constitution at the expense of the safety of us all.

We fully support the right of people to express their opinions in support of and in opposition to the ruling. We’re staunch supporters of the First Amendment.

But instead of calling our justices names and questioning their political loyalties, advocating the purchase of large amounts of ammunition and threatening to shoot any police officer who dares to darken a doorstep, we wish those who would advocate against the ruling would take a lesson or two from our two justices who each wrote in dissent of the decision: Justices Robert Rucker and Brent Dickson, as well as the Indiana State Bar Association that responded to reaction.

Justice Dickson wrote that he would have preferred a more narrow approach. “… a more cautious revision of the common law would have, in cases not involving domestic violence, left in place the historic right of people to reasonably resist unlawful police entry in their dwellings,” he wrote.

Justice Rucker wrote that the majority’s ruling was far too broad. “There is simply no reason to abrogate the common law right of a citizen to resist the unlawful police entry into his or her home,” he wrote.

Both are forceful in their arguments, as well as eloquent and persuasive. And both are pitch-perfect examples of how to make an argument without resorting to threats. The ISBA is also encouraging all criticism and discourse to be made in a respectful manner, excluding personal and inflammatory attacks on individual judges and law enforcement officials. We wish some of the people who are arguing against this ruling would take them for an example to follow.•

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  • Tort Claim Simplification Legislation Is Needed
    One of the reasons which Justice David uses to support his conclusion is that of "The Development of alternative remedies by an aggrieved arrestee." If he is referring to the tort claim procedure, much needs to be done to make the tort claim procedure a practical reality such as a uniform time limit for claims against all State and local police agencies and a single person or entity for naming the appropriate defendant and a single person or entity for service of process. Additionally there should be a requirement of a detailed investigation of a tort claim and a detailed response other than claim denied.

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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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