ILNews

Erroneous instruction on accomplice liability not enough to get conviction overturned

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals has split on whether erroneous jury instruction was a harmless error or gave the jurors another base for finding a defendant guilty of attempted murder.

Ruben Rosales, a member of the Latin Kings gang in Anderson, was convicted of attempted murder following an attack on a rival gang member, Sergio Torres. A witness saw Rosales, carrying a baseball bat, and another man enter an alley were Torres was. No one saw Rosales actually hit Torres on the head with the bat.

At trial, the jury was instructed on the requirements for attempted murder as well as accomplice liability.

Rosales argued, on appeal, that the trial court made a fundamental error when it did not tell the jury that an accomplice to attempted murder must act with specific intent to kill. Instead, during the Rosales’ trial, the court told the jury an accomplice is someone “who knowingly or intentionally aids, induces or causes another person to commit an offense.”

In Ruben Rosales v. State of Indiana, 48A02-1303-CR-229, the Court of Appeals rejected Rosales’ arguments. It pointed out the accomplice liability was not the only theory for his conviction and the state’s evidence supports the jury’s finding that he was guilty of attempted murder as the principal.

“Here, the trial court properly instructed the jury on all the elements of the offense of attempted murder, with respect to which the additional instructions on accomplice liability were mere surplusage,” Edward Najam Jr., wrote for the majority. “The jury’s verdict form states that the jury found Rosales guilty of ‘Attempted Murder’ without delineating whether the jury found him guilty as the principal or the accomplice. Thus, when the jury found Rosales guilty of attempted murder, the State had met its burden of proof on each and every element of the offense of attempted murder, and ‘it simply does not matter how’ the jury was instructed on accomplice liability.”

Judge Terry A. Crone dissented, arguing the jury instruction was a fundamental error because only the final instructions to the jury mentioned accomplice liability. This gave the jurors two distinct avenues for finding Rosales guilty and while they could have convicted him as principal, they could also have found him guilty as an accomplice based on the erroneous instruction.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  2. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  3. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  4. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  5. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

ADVERTISEMENT