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High court grants 4 transfers

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The Indiana Supreme Court agreed Oct. 1 to hear four cases, including one dealing with whether a defendant should have a new murder trial and another involving whether a prior conviction in conspiracy to deal in cocaine counts as a conviction for dealing in cocaine under the state's habitual offender statute.

In Chawknee P. Caruthers v. State of Indiana, No. 46S05-0910-CR-431, the Indiana Court of Appeals split as to whether the trial court committed a fundamental error by failing to investigate the impact of threats made against the jury during a murder trial. The majority concluded the lack of questioning by the trial court of the jurors regarding the threats required the murder conviction be overturned. Judge Ezra Friedlander dissented, agreeing with the state that the harmless error doctrine should apply to defeat Chawknee Caruthers' claim of fundamental error.

In Myron Owens v. State, No. 49S02-0910-CR-429, the appellate court unanimously decided that a prior conviction of conspiracy to deal in cocaine qualified as a conviction for dealing in cocaine under the state's habitual offender statute. The Court of Appeals ruled that in order to have convicted Myron Owens of conspiracy to deal in cocaine, the state had to prove he actually dealt in cocaine, and under these particular facts and circumstances, Owens' prior conviction for conspiracy to commit dealing is, for purposes of Section 8, a prior conviction for dealing in cocaine.

In Luis E. Duran v. State of Indiana, No. 45S03-0910-CR-430, Judge Carr Darden dissented from the majority's denial of a man's motion to suppress evidence because the judge didn't believe the police officers were justified in kicking down Luis Duran's door and entering his apartment. Judges Margret Robb and L. Mark Bailey ruled the officers didn't violate Duran's Fourth Amendment rights or his rights under the Indiana Constitution because the Litchfield factors, in their totality, favored a finding the officers' conduct was reasonable.

Police incorrectly believed another man, who they were looking for on a warrant, lived at Duran's apartment. After a delay in answering his door, police kicked it down, entered Duran's apartment and found drugs.

In State of Indiana v. Robert Richardson, No. 49S02-0910-CR-428, the Court of Appeals reversed Robert Richardson's motion to suppress evidence following a traffic stop for a seatbelt violation, finding the police officer's inquiry regarding an object in his pants didn't violate Richardson's constitutional rights or the Seatbelt Enforcement Act.

Using previous caselaw regarding the Seatbelt Enforcement Act, the appellate court ruled it wasn't impermissible under the act for the officer to ask a motorist what the large object in his pants was. The inquiry didn't exceed the scope of police behavior permitted under the Seatbelt Enforcement Act; Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution; or the Fourth Amendment, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

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