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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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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