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Erroneous instruction on accomplice liability not enough to get conviction overturned

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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.
 

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  1. It is amazing how selectively courts can read cases and how two very similar factpatterns can result in quite different renderings. I cited this very same argument in Brown v. Bowman, lost. I guess it is panel, panel, panel when one is on appeal. Sad thing is, I had Sykes. Same argument, she went the opposite. Her Rooker-Feldman jurisprudence is now decidedly unintelligible.

  2. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  3. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  4. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  5. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

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