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High court vacates transfer

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The Indiana Supreme Court vacated transfer yesterday in a case in which a defendant appealed his convictions of voluntary manslaughter, carrying a handgun without a license, and finding that he was a habitual offender.

The high court voted 3-2 to vacate transfer to Scottie Adams v. State, No. 71S03-0809-CR-514, with Justice Theodore Boehm writing a five-page dissent with which Justice Frank Sullivan concurred.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in a July 25, 2008, opinion that Adams failed to demonstrate that witness Christopher White's refusal to testify had a prejudicial impact on the jury to the extent that a mistrial was warranted. White spontaneously said while on the stand that he was afraid to testify because he was scared for his family and his life. White had been jumped while he was in jail over the case, but didn't show any evidence that Adams was behind it. The trial court told the jury not to consider any statements made by White about his not wanting to testify.

On appeal, Adams also argued the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the offense of voluntary manslaughter when he was originally charged with murder and that since the state didn't amend the information to include the voluntary manslaughter charge, the instructions shouldn't have been given. The Court of Appeals found no authority suggesting a lesser-included offense instruction can't be given in instances where the defendant decides not to present any evidence at trial.

The Supreme Court granted transfer Sept. 23, 2008, and held arguments Dec. 11, 2008.

Justice Boehm's dissent on the denial of transfer hinges on an important issue in the case that needs to be addressed - whether the trial court's admonition satisfactorily addressed the prejudicial impact of the witness' testimony that Adams had threatened him, or whether Adams was entitled to a mistrial.

In the instant case, the trial court asked the jury to ignore the witness' statements but didn't explain why, which left jurors to draw the inference that Adams was behind the threats, wrote Justice Boehm.

"I write separately to express my view that once it was clear no evidence associated Adams with White's concerns, if no mistrial was ordered, the trial court should have at least given more than a generic and conclusory instruction to disregard White's testimony," he wrote.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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