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Inconsistent jury verdicts not reviewable

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Inconsistent, contradictory, or irreconcilable jury verdicts in criminal cases aren't available for appellate review, the Indiana Supreme Court held Thursday.

The high court granted transfer to Shewanda Beattie v. State of Indiana, No. 82S01-0907-CR-307, to address variations in the state's caselaw on the issue of judicial review of logically inconsistent verdicts in the same case. A jury found Shewanda Beattie guilty of possession of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a family housing complex and possession of marijuana, but not guilty of dealing in cocaine, and possession of cocaine. She challenged that her conviction is fatally inconsistent with her acquittal on the charge of possession of the same cocaine. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the conviction because the jury's verdict left the appellate court unable to determine what evidence the jury believed.

For the most part, Indiana cases have followed U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Dunn v. United States, 284 U.S. 390, 52 S. Ct. 189, 76 L. Ed. 356 (1932), and United States v. Powell, 469 U.S. 57, 105 S. Ct. 471, 83 L. Ed. 2d 461 (1984). The Powell court affirmed the ruling in Dunn that a criminal defendant convicted by a jury on one count couldn't attack that conviction because it was inconsistent with the jury's verdict of acquittal on another count. Powell emphasized that defendants are already afforded protection against jury irrationality or error by the availability of an independent review for sufficiency of evidence.

One Indiana case, Marsh v. State, 271 Ind. 454, 393 N.E.2d 757 (1979), deviated from this line of authority and ruled that extremely contradictory and irreconcilable verdicts warrant corrective action by the appellate courts. Before the instant case, only in Owsley v. State, 769 N.E.2d 181 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), has an Indiana appellate court granted relief on this issue.

When a jury returns logically inconsistent verdicts, it could be because the jury misunderstood its instructions or chose to exercise lenity, wrote Justice Brent Dickson. A jury's right to exercise lenity is an important component of the criminal justice system, he continued. Juries can also return inconsistent verdicts because of a compromise among disagreeing jurors, to avoid an all-or-nothing verdict, or for other reasons.

The justices unanimously adopted the federal rule expressed in Dunn and Powell and upheld Beattie's convictions.

"Concluding that the contrasting 'extremely contradictory and irreconcilable' standard devised in Marsh has proven in practice to be unhelpful and inconsistent with Indiana's strong respect for the conscientiousness, wisdom, and common sense of juries, we overrule the standard advanced in Marsh and disapprove of Owsley," Justice Dickson wrote. "Jury verdicts in criminal cases are not subject to appellate review on grounds that they are inconsistent, contradictory, or irreconcilable."

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  1. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  2. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  3. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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