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Indiana Court Decisions - Sept. 5 to 18, 2012

IL Staff
September 26, 2012
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For Publication opinions on Indiana cases released by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Tax Court during this issue’s reporting period are highlighted in this section. To read the complete opinion issued in any of these cases, visit www.theindianalawyer.com and search by case name.

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Sept. 6

Civil – Insurance/Duty to Defend

Home Federal Savings Bank v. Ticor Title Insurance Co.

11-3446

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ticor Title Insurance Co. breached its duty to defend Home Federal Savings Bank on a counterclaim brought by a general contractor on a failed ethanol plant in Cloverdale.

Altra Indiana LLC got a $95.5 million loan from Home Federal Savings Bank to construct the ethanol plant. Home Federal obtained a mortgage on the property and purchased title insurance from Ticor. The policy included a mechanic’s lien endorsement, which obligated Ticor to defend Home Federal in litigation in which a third party asserts a claim …alleging a ... lien … .”

In September 2008, F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co. filed a mechanic’s lien on the property after Altra fired the contractor. Wilhelm claimed it was owed $6 million for work on the project. An October 2008 title search by Ticor revealed the lien. Ticor declined to defend Home Federal on its claim that its attempt to foreclose on the plant property took priority over the lien.

Home Federal and Wilhelm eventually settled for $1.8 million, with no contribution from Ticor. Home Federal then sued Ticor alleging the company acted in bad faith and breached its duties to defend against Wilhelm’s counterclaim that its mechanic’s lien had priority or was equal to the mortgage, and failed in not indemnifying the bank for the settlement and attorney fees.

U.S. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled in favor of Ticor, relying on the policy exclusion for any “Defects, liens, encumbrances, adverse claims or other matters … created, suffered, assumed or agreed to or by the Insured claimant.”

Ticor did have a duty to defend under the policy, Judge John Tinder wrote. The exclusion relied on by the District Court to grant summary judgment for Ticor does not apply, the judges ruled, rejecting Ticor’s numerous claims. Ticor argued that Home Federal “created, suffered, assumed, or agreed to” the Wilhelm lien because the bank “made the conscious decision not to distribute the remaining loan funds and chose not to pay Wilhelm.” It also argued the bank breached a duty to Ticor to distribute the entirety of the loan proceedings and that the “created or suffered” exclusion applies because the bank sought to obtain an inequitable windfall.

The judges ordered summary judgment be entered for Home Federal and for further proceedings on the issue of damages to be awarded to the bank.
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Sept. 14

Civil – Inmates/Living Conditions

Alan Kress and Randy Carr v. CCA of Tennessee LLC, doing business as Corrections Corporation of America, et al.

11-2950

Two former inmates who filed a class-action lawsuit against the company that runs the Marion County Correctional Center couldn’t convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that the court should rule in their favor. The men claimed the jail provided inadequate medical care and inhumane living conditions.

Alan Kress and Randy Carr were inmates in the jail in 2008. They filed their complaint against CCA of Tennessee, which operates as Corrections Corporation of America, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. They also sought class certification for any and all people currently or who will be confined in the jail.

In December 2010, U.S. Judge Larry McKinney granted class certification, but dismissed many of the claims from class certification, including that the jail failed to provide adequate medical care, that the conditions of confinement inside the jail were inhumane, and that the procedures in the jail violated inmates’ rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. CCA moved for summary judgment on the remaining issues, which the District Court granted.

Kress and Carr appeal McKinney’s denial of class certification of their claim regarding CCA’s reduction of daily pill calls for inmates from three per day to two per day, the grant of summary judgment to CCA, and the order denying their motion to amend the judgment.

McKinney denied class certification on this issue based on the failure to satisfy the typicality requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(a). The 7th Circuit was not persuaded by Kress and Carr’s reliance on Smentek v. Sherriff of Cook County, 09 C 529, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122145 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 18, 2010), to overturn the decision.

The 7th Circuit also upheld summary judgment for CCA, pointing out that the conditions the men complained of have since been remedied by the jail. They do not dispute that the remedial measures were taken.

“Therefore, due to the lack of evidence of any ongoing constitutional violations, the district court had no choice. The grant of summary judgment was proper,” Judge William Bauer wrote.

The judges affirmed the denial of the men’s motion to amend judgment.

Indiana Supreme Court

Sept. 13

Criminal – Jurisdiction/Theft, Counterfeiting, Corrupt Business Practice

An-Hung Yao and Yu-Ting Lin v. State of Indiana

35S02-1112-CR-704

Charges of theft, counterfeiting and corrupt business influence against Houston-based defendants as a result of the sale of airsoft guns in Indiana can proceed in this state, the Supreme Court ruled.

The justices affirmed the trial court denial of An-Hung Yao and Yu-Ting Lin’s motions to dismiss the charging informations on jurisdictional grounds and the denial of their motions to dismiss the charging informations alleging three counts each of Class D felonies theft and corrupt business influence. The justices reversed the trial court’s grant of the defendant’s motion to dismiss the charging informations alleging one count each of Class C felony counterfeiting.

Lin operates Generation Guns from Houston, Texas. The company imports from Taiwan and sells in the U.S. “airsoft guns,” toy replicas that look like real guns but shoot lightweight plastic pellets. Yao, vice-president of a Houston bank and friend of Lin’s, helped her set up systems for her business and attended trade shows with her. Heckler & Koch Inc. ordered airsoft guns from Lin’s company and had them shipped to Huntington County, Ind. The toys delivered were replicas of guns made by H&K.

On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals concluded that all charges should be dismissed because the trial court lacked territorial jurisdiction.

Justice Robert Rucker wrote that the court couldn’t conclude as a matter of law the defendants engaged in no conduct nor effected any result in Indiana that was an element of either the theft or counterfeiting charge. If the state can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lin and Yao engaged in Indiana in any one or more of the forms of exerting control over the property of H&K, then the defendants would be entitled to acquittal or judgment on the evidence.

The justices rejected the defendants’ claim that their airsoft guns can’t constitute a written instrument under the counterfeiting statute because the guns don’t contain any “written matter.” The high court adopted the state’s view of the statute that defines “written instrument” more broadly, which could include an object or symbol of value, right, privilege or identification, even if the object or symbol doesn’t contain writings or markings.

Lin and Yao also argued that it’s not “theoretically possible” to “exert unauthorized control” over a third-party’s trademark right. They also want this case resolved under civil trademark infringement law, not criminal law.

But whether a theft prosecution is the “wrong tool for the job” when it comes to defining intellectual property interests, that is not the justices’ jobs to decide, Rucker wrote. “Rather, our job is to apply the Indiana criminal statutes as drafted by the Legislature. And under those statutes, the questions in this case include whether the Defendants, did beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) knowingly or intentionally; 2) obtain, take, carry, sell, convey, encumber, or possess property, or secure, transfer, or extend a right to property; 3) which property belonged to H&K; 4) without H&K’s consent; 5) with intent to deprive H&K of any part of the property’s value or use? And these are all questions of fact that cannot be determined on a motion to dismiss.”

Indiana Tax Court

Sept. 7

Estate – Interest on Refund/Judgment Interest

Indiana Dept. of State Revenue, Inheritance Tax Division v. The Supervised Estate of John A. Schoenenberger, Deceased

49T10-1010-TA-54

The estate of a Lowell chef and food production expert is not entitled to interest on a refund or judgment interest that the Lake County probate court awarded, the Indiana Tax Court ruled.

After John A. Schoenenberger died in November 2003, his estate made an estimated inheritance tax payment of $1.8 million to the Lake County treasurer, preserving a right to a 5 percent discount for an early estimated payment.

In 2008, the probate court determined the tax liability and subsequently Lake County sent a refund of $742,128. The estate then asked for interest on the funds the county had held for years, but the county declined, citing Indiana Code 6-4.1-10-1 as amended in 2007. The estate said that because the 1980 language was in effect at the time the payment was made, that law should have governed.

When the matter went to probate court, the estate was granted summary judgment and $199,347 in interest plus judgment interest.

“The estate … did file a valid refund claim on April 14, 2008, six days after the probate court determined its inheritance tax liability and more than nine months after the 2007 version took effect. Thus, the 2007 version of Indiana Code § 6-4.1-10-1 governed any right the estate had to interest on its refund claim,” Tax Court Judge Martha Wentworth wrote.

“That version of the statute provided that the estate would receive interest on its refund claim if the Department failed to pay the refund claim within ninety days of its receipt. See I.C. § 6-4.1-10-1(b)-(c) (2007). The Department paid the claim well within that period, just twenty-nine days after receiving the claim; therefore, the probate court erred in granting the Estate interest on its refund claim and judgment interest thereon.”

The matter was remanded to the court for further proceedings.

Indiana Court of Appeals

Sept. 5

Criminal – OWI/Filing of Charges

Cody B. Honeycutt v. State of Indiana

92A04-1203-CR-149

The Whitley Superior Court should have granted a defendant’s motion to dismiss two operating while intoxicated charges because the charges came after he pleaded guilty to two other charges relating to the same initial traffic stop.

When Cody Honeycutt was stopped by police, Indiana State Police Sgt. Todd Reed smelled burnt marijuana on Honeycutt. Honeycutt also admitted to smoking the drug earlier in the day and handed a bag of it to the officer. Reed took Honeycutt for a blood draw, but while results of the test were pending, he pleaded guilty without counsel to Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana and a traffic infraction. He was sentenced to one year with all but eight days suspended.

When the results of the test came back a few days later, the state added two more charges under the same cause number: Class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated and Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in Honeycutt’s body. Now represented by an attorney, Honeycutt filed a motion dismiss on grounds they were barred by the Successive Prosecution Statute. The trial court denied it, and he was found guilty at a bench trial.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed. The state conceded that all four charges are connected, but it argued that it didn’t have probable cause to bring the operating charges at the same time as it brought the charge of possession of marijuana and traffic infraction.

The judges found there was probable cause to charge Honeycutt with the operating offenses at the same time, as Honeycutt had confessed to smoking the drug, there was marijuana on him, and based on the police sergeant’s observations of Honeycutt, Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

“If the State believed that the lab results were the key piece of evidence it needed to file the operating charges, then it should have completed its investigation, dismissed the initially-filed Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana and traffic infraction, and filed all four charges at the same time,” she wrote.

The Court of Appeals also held that Honeycutt did not waive his argument, as the state claimed, because both the trial court and the prosecutor warned him before he pleaded guilty that he could face more charges depending on the pending lab results.

Criminal – Jury Instruction/Resisting Arrest

Napoleon Gracia, Sr. v. State of Indiana

34A04-1112-CR-667

The Howard Superior Court was correct in refusing a defendant’s instruction that provided a defense to his resisting arrest charges. The 2011 Supreme Court ruling in Barnes v. State did not permit his proposed instruction, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

Napoleon Gracia Sr. appealed his convictions of Class C felony disarming of a law enforcement officer, Class A misdemeanor battery, and Class A misdemeanor resisting law enforcement following an arrest in 2010. Officers came to his Kokomo home to serve a search warrant because of possible drug activity. Gracia waited in the garage as the warrant was being executed. After police found a leafy plant substance and items associated with smoking and sale of marijuana, officers attempted to arrest Gracia. He refused to put his hands behind his back, pulled away and was tased. He then charged at officers, who sprayed him in the face with mace. Gracia punched one officer and tried to remove that officer’s gun from his holster.

At his trial in Howard Superior Court I, Gracia wanted the court to give a jury instruction stating Garcia could resist the officer’s use of excessive force by the use of reasonable force to protect himself. The trial court refused the instruction, citing Barnes, 946 N.E.2d 572 (Ind. 2011).

The appellate court affirmed that the instruction was not a “good statement of the law” in light of Barnes, which held “there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.” Judge Nancy Vaidik noted that the Legislature has since amended Indiana law to restore a citizen’s right to use reasonable force to protect himself against unlawful entry by police officers.

Gracia also claimed the state engaged in impermissible forum shopping when it filed the charges in Howard Superior Court I. Local rules dictate a weekly rotation among certain Howard County courts, and for the most part, a prosecutor should file a felony criminal charge in the court designated by the weekly rotation. Court I is not included in the rotating system.

The judges agreed that Court I was not the proper forum for Gracia’s case, but he didn’t object to the filing of charges in that court. The COA analyzed his appeal using fundamental error and found that he couldn’t show he was prejudiced or denied a fair trial. His argument that the prosecutor disregarded local rules is no substitute for this showing, Vaidik wrote.

The appellate court also upheld his eight-year sentence, pointing to Gracia’s history of resisting law enforcement and the seriousness of this latest incident.
__________

Sept. 6

Criminal – Testimony/Toxicology Tests

Troy Wilson v. State of Indiana

29A02-1202-CR-88

The Hamilton Superior Court properly denied a defendant’s attempt to elicit testimony concerning the reliability of toxicology test results from the Indiana Department of Toxicology dealing with an audit of tests performed by the department from 2007 to 2009, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

Troy Wilson was charged with Class A misdemeanors possession of marijuana and driving while intoxicated; he only challenged his DWI conviction on appeal. Wilson agreed to submit to a blood draw to test for the presence of alcohol in his system on Dec. 6, 2009, and a nurse performed the blood draw using a kit provided to police by the state Department of Toxicology. It was later analyzed by the department’s lab in 2010, and tested again in 2011 after the original analyst was no longer employed with the department. Wilson was convicted in January 2012.

At trial, Wilson sought to introduce testimony from Dr. Scott Kriger, Ph.D., the department’s director, concerning audits conducted of test results produced by the department during 2007, 2008 and 2009. The independent audit found testing errors in around 10 percent of marijuana tests and a third of cocaine tests. Further audits were postponed before alcohol tests could be reviewed. The state objected and the trial court ruled the testimony inadmissible.

The Court of Appeals rejected Wilson’s argument that his confrontation rights were violated when he was unable to elicit the audit testimony from Kriger. But he was able to cross-examine the second analyst and Kriger regarding how the tests are performed and other information, Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote.

The trial court also didn’t err in determining the audit testimony was irrelevant as the audit pertained to samples tested from 2007 to 2009 and Wilson’s test used at trial was performed in 2011, the judges held. Wilson argued the audit results impact the jury’s assessment of the credibility of the department’s analysis of his blood sample because his test “could have been part of an audit.”

“The discontinuation of the audit on blood-alcohol samples and the period of time covered by the audits generally may bear upon the credibility of the Department’s testing results from 2007 to 2009. But it is not clear that these questions bear upon the credibility of the Department’s analysis here, where different procedures were executed by different analysts serving under a different Director more than 1 1/2 years beyond the chronological scope of the audits,” Bailey wrote.

Criminal – Prosecutorial Comments/Fifth Amendment

Patrick Nichols v. State of Indiana

31A01-1112-CR-599

Comments made by a prosecutor during a Harrison County man’s trial for charges stemming from a break-in at a convenience store improperly suggested that the man chose not to testify so he would not incriminate himself, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The state charged Patrick Nichols with Class C felony burglary, Class D felony theft and Class A misdemeanor criminal mischief, believing he broke into the Wilson General Store and gas station in Elizabeth and stole cigarettes and an air conditioner unit. Store owner Emmett Wilson and a police officer went to the store after the burglar alarm went off around 3 a.m. on April 14, 2011. No one was found in the store, but items were missing and in disarray.

According to court records, Nichols made several calls from inside the store between 6 and 7 a.m., including to his mother and ex-girlfriend. He told his ex-girlfriend that he was at a gas station in Elizabeth and needed picked up, but she did not get him. A passerby saw a PT Cruiser in the alley near the store and saw some of the metal siding from the store was pried off. The passerby wrote down the license plate number, which was only one “alpha character” different than the license plate number of Nichols’ mother, who also had a PT Cruiser.

The prosecution acknowledged that its evidence against Nichols was “not a lot.” The prosecutor went on to say, “I usually don’t comment on a person’s [F]ifth [A]mendment right …” and told a story about another case in which the evidence was extremely thin but the defendant was convicted because he chose to testify and, in testifying, provided the jury with evidence of his guilt.

Nichols did not object to the prosecutor’s comments and was convicted of the three charges.

The Court of Appeals decided the prosecutor’s comments rose to the level of fundamental error. The jury could have reasonably inferred that the prosecutor was suggesting that Nichols didn’t testify so as to avoid self-incrimination, Judge Terry Crone wrote.

“In fact, we think it is obvious that the prosecutor was suggesting that the jury draw an inference of guilt from Nichols’s decision not to testify. Given the obviousness of the prosecutor’s comments and the fact that the evidence of guilt was not overwhelming in this case, we conclude that the comments placed Nichols in a position of grave peril and constituted clearly blatant violations of basic and elementary principles of due process that presented an undeniable and substantial potential for harm,” he wrote.

The judges ordered a new trial.
__________

Sept. 7

Adoption – Biological Father’s Consent

In Re Adoption of M.L.; J.H. v. J.L. and C.L.

29A02-1201-AD-54

Adoptive parents did not have to get the biological father’s consent to adopt his minor child, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The adoptive parents filed a petition to adopt the child, L.H., and claimed the father’s consent was not necessary on three grounds: He had failed to communicate significantly with L.H. for one year, had failed to support L.H. for one year and was an unfit parent.

Evidence presented to the trial court showed that father J.H. has a long history of depression and substance abuse. He has been reluctant to follow treatment advice for his mental health issues or drug and alcohol abuse. In addition, he has attempted suicide and has cut himself. Also, he has been arrested, lost his license and has had difficulty maintaining employment and stable housing.

In 2008, the adoptive parents became concerned about their grandson M.L. and his half-brother L.H. They obtained guardianship over the children which the father did consent to because of his inability to care for his son at that time. M.L. is not the biological child of J.H.

Since then, L.H. and M.L. have remained the grandparents’ care.

In granting the grandparents’ petition, the trial court found that the couple had established the grounds for dispensing with the father’s consent and that the adoption was in L.H.’s best interest.

The father appealed, arguing the evidence is insufficient to prove that his consent was not required and that adoption was in L.H.’s best interests.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed. The COA ruled that since it found sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that the father is not a fit parent, it did not need to address the court’s alternate ground for dispensing with the father’s consent.

The Court of Appeals affirmed that the evidence supported the conclusion that adoption is in L.H.’s best interest.

Civil Tort – Medical Malpractice

Kenneth W. Smith and Deb-Anne Smith v. Dermatology Associates of Fort Wayne, P.C. a/k/a Dermatology & Laser Surgery Associates of Fort Wayne, P.C.

02A03-1201-CT-41

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that a badly sunburned patient failed to meet the burden of res ipsa loquitur in a medical malpractice lawsuit against his dermatologist.  

Kenneth W. Smith was a patient of Dr. Alan R. Gilbert, a dermatologist at Dermatology Associates of Fort Wayne PC, a/k/a Dermatology & Laser Surgery Association of Fort Wayne PC, where he received Psoralen UVA treatments for his psoriasis. For a 10-year period starting in December 1994, he had 147 treatments which involved him taking the drug Psoralen and then being exposed to UVA light.

 After his last laser treatment on Dec. 8, 2004, he returned to work but became ill and eventually went to the emergency room. From there, he was admitted to the Burn Unit of St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne with first and second degree burns to about 84 percent of his body.

On Feb. 6, 2009, Smith and his wife filed a complaint against the doctor’s office. They alleged that the negligence of the medical personnel or machine malfunction created a res ipsa loquitur inference that an act of malpractice may have occurred.

The trial court concluded the Smiths had failed to establish that the dermatology practice had exclusive control of the PUVA machine or that the injuries allegedly suffered by Smith would not have occurred without negligence. Also, the court found that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur was inapplicable and that the Smiths had failed to meet their burden of establishing by direct or circumstantial evidence that DLSA breached its duty to care.

The Smiths appealed claiming the trial court erred by concluding that they had failed to present sufficient evidence to invoke the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

In affirming the trial court’s decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals found that the Smiths were unable to meet the first element of res ipsa loquitur, that the medical office had exclusive control of the PUVA machine. In addition, the couple was unable to establish the second element of the doctrine that his injuries would not have occurred without negligence.
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Sept. 11

Civil Tort – Post-Judgment Interest

Pac-Van, Inc. v. Wekiva Falls Resort

49A02-1204-CT-337

An award of post-judgment interest paid by a losing party does not include the time a court takes in tallying the bill, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

“When the losing party pays a judgment in full, does post-judgment interest keep running on the whole amount until the trial court calculates the amount due for the period between the judgment and the payment? The trial court here said yes. The statute and the cases are otherwise,” Senior Judge Randall Shepard wrote in a unanimous opinion.

In April 2011, Wekiva Falls won a jury verdict of $102,285 on a breach of contract and negligence complaint. In January 2012, Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer awarded Wekiva $6,368.27 in interest on the jury verdict and $5,075.81 in interest on the attorney fees award.

The court reversed Dreyer’s award, holding that post-judgment interest should have been awarded only for the period of time between the jury’s ruling and Pac-Van’s payment of the judgment, 48 days.

“The trial court’s award of interest on fees for five months after the fees were paid was error,” Shepard wrote. “We reverse the trial court’s award of post-judgment interest and remand with instructions to issue a new order reflecting $1,076.09 in interest on the verdict and $919.43 in interest on the fees, for a total of $1,995.52.”

Criminal – Child Molestation/Supplemental Sentencing Order

Aaron Young v. State of Indiana

71A05-1111-CR-650

In a split ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a South Bend man’s conviction of child molestation but rejected the state’s claim that wording on a supplemental sentencing order was a scrivener’s error.

Aaron Young was found guilty in October 2011 on two counts of Class A felony child molestation for abusing his daughter. The trial court then issued a supplemental sentencing order that classified Young as a credit restricted felon because the victim was under 12 years of age.  

Young appealed his conviction on the grounds that the state did not present sufficient evidence to prove he committed Class A felony child molestation and that the trial court erred when it found him to be a credit restricted felon.

The COA affirmed the conviction, finding the victim’s testimony was not “incredibly dubious” and that the state did present evidence of sexual activity.

However, the court reversed the trial court’s determination that Young is a credit restricted felon and remanded for recalculation of his credit time.

The trial court referenced Count II in its supplemental sentencing order when it found the victim was under the age of 12 at the time the charged molestation occurred but, Young argued, Count II did not happen prior to his daughter’s 12th birthday. The state countered that the reference to Count II instead of Count I “was likely a scrivener’s error and otherwise harmless.”

Declining to categorize the reference to Count II as a “minor mistake,” the COA held the trial court erred when it decided Young was a credit restricted felon because the state did not present evidence that he committed any actions in Count II while the victim was younger than 12.

Criminal – Neglect of a Dependent/Death

Brittany L. McConniel v. State of Indiana

18A02-1108-CR-733

The conviction and sentence of a Delaware County woman whose stepdaughter died due to neglect was not inappropriate, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Brittany McConniel was convicted of neglect of a dependent as a Class A felony after her 9-year-old stepdaughter, Lauren, died at I.U. Riley Children’s Hospital. Lauren had been brought to the hospital in an abused and emaciated state. She weighed 28 pounds at the time of her admission.

“The record reveals that Lauren’s suffering was significant and that she suffered for a considerable period of time,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the unanimous panel. “McConniel’s extremely abusive behavior toward and neglect of Lauren over a period of months is beyond shocking.”

Brown’s 34-page opinion recounts in detail McConniel’s treatment of Lauren while rejecting her arguments that the court abused its discretion in a denying McConniel’s motion for funds for expert witnesses and challenging the sufficiency of evidence and the appropriateness of the sentence in light of the offense and McConniel’s character.

“While the record reveals that McConniel does not have a criminal history, the nature of the offense and the character of the offender revealed by the evidence presented leads us to the conclusion that the sentence imposed by the trial court is not inappropriate. For the foregoing reasons, we affirm McConniel’s conviction and sentence,” Brown wrote.
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Sept. 12

Post-Conviction – Hearsay & Vouching Testimony/New Trial

Jerry L. Kindred v. State of Indiana

28A01-1202-PC-50

A Greene County man convicted of Class A felony child molesting is entitled to a new trial because extensive hearsay and vouching testimony was admitted in error, the Court of Appeals held.

Jerry Kindred appealed the denial of his request for post-conviction relief and reinstated his direct appeal to the felony conviction. Kindred was convicted of molesting his girlfriend’s granddaughter while they slept in the same bed.

Don Fish, a caseworker for Green County Child Protective Services, and Julie Martin, a sex-crimes investigator employed by the Green County Prosecutor’s Office, interviewed A.G. about her allegations that Kindred placed his finger in her vagina on several occasions. At Kindred’s trial, Martin testified about her role in charging decisions, and she and Fish testified regarding what A.G. told them during the forensic interviews.

This testimony was not properly offered as course-of-investigation evidence as the state had argued, Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote. The fact that Martin generally requires corroborating evidence before filing charges is irrelevant. The testimony also contained hearsay.

A.G.’s mother, grandmother and the grandmother’s ex-husband, as well as Martin and Fish, also testified that A.G. said Kindred molested her. A.G. also testified that Kindred molested her. This was drumbeat evidence, the judges held, pointing to the length of the testimony by Martin and Fish. The jury also heard Kindred’s entire 40-minute interview with investigators at which Fish repeatedly suggested Kindred touched A.G. and A.G. was being truthful.

There was also fundamental error when A.G.’s relatives vouched for A.G.’s credibility. The appellate court extended the decision of Hoglund v. State, N.E.2d 1230 (Ind. 2012), in which the Supreme Court expressly eliminated the vouching-testimony exception in child molesting cases, to also include testimony referencing whether a child was coached.

“We read Hoglund to suggest that testimony about whether a child has been coached amounts to the same improper commentary on the child’s truthfulness as testimony about whether a child is prone to exaggerate or fantasize about sexual matters. We hold that general testimony about the signs of coaching, as well as the presence or absence of those signs in the child victim at issue, preserves the ultimate credibility determination for the jury and therefore does not constitute vouching. By contrast, where a witness opines as to whether the child victim was coached — offering an ultimate opinion, as Fish did here — the witness invades the province of the jury and vouches for the child,” Vaidik wrote.

Kindred may be retried if the state chooses to do so, the judges ruled after reversing his conviction.

Criminal – Evidence/OWI

State of Indiana v. David Bisard

49A04-1109-CR-459

The blood of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer accused of driving drunk and killing one motorcyclist and injuring two others should be allowed at his trial for reckless homicide and other alcohol-related charges, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on interlocutory appeal.  

Senior Judge Randall Shepard authored the unanimous 21-page decision in which the appellate court found that the medical assistant who drew David Bisard’s blood did so in a way that followed physician-approved protocols. Bisard moved to suppress the blood test, claiming that Michelle Maga hadn’t followed appropriate protocols and Indiana Code prohibits medical assistants from drawing blood for the purposes of his case.

Bisard was on duty in his patrol car in August 2010 when he hit two motorcycles stopped at an intersection in Indianapolis. Eric Wells died, and Mary Mills and Kurt Weekly were seriously injured. Bisard was taken to Methodist Occupational Health Center where he consented to the blood draw which was performed by Maga.

Test results showed a blood alcohol content of 0.19. Bisard was initially charged with several alcohol-related charges, including Class B felony operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.15 or higher causing death, and reckless homicide. But then-Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi dismissed the alcohol-related charges. When newly elected prosecutor Terry Curry took office, he re-filed six operating while intoxicated charges.

Marion Superior Judge Grant Hawkins in May 2011 found that Maga wasn’t qualified to draw blood under the state’s implied consent statutes, there was no clear evidence she followed any of MOHC’s protocols for drawing blood, there was conflicting evidence if the tubes of blood were properly handled, and there were questions whether the blood was drawn from the right arm which Maga had inadvertently swabbed with alcohol or the left arm that she swabbed using the proper cleansing solution.

Hawkins did not allow the evidence for the DUI charges, but allowed it for the reckless homicide count.

Indiana Code 9-30-6 and -7 indicate that blood evidence is generally admissible subject to rules of evidence, Shepard wrote, and the spirit of the Indiana Rules of Evidence is to allow any relevant evidence, unless barred by Rule 403. Rule 403 has not been implicated in this case, he wrote.

Maga’s taking of Bisard’s blood conformed to a protocol prepared by a physician, the judges ruled, and Maga testified that she did gently invert the tubes eight to 10 times to mix the blood as required and that she drew his blood from the arm swabbed with the proper cleansing solution. An affidavit from an officer who did not witness the blood draw said another officer told him that Maga took the blood from the wrong arm, but “a probable cause affidavit signed by someone who was not present holds little to no weight on this point,” Shepard wrote.

The judges also found that the fact the person who draws the blood is not on the list in subsection I.C. 9-30-6-6(j) does not compel suppression.

“This is not to say that anyone may draw blood or that it may be drawn in any manner. Rather, subsection (j) tells us that blood may be drawn at a licensed hospital or by certain people if not at a licensed hospital. To the extent that someone else draws blood, the evidence must show that the person is properly trained and performed the draw in a medically acceptable manner. Here, Maga had been trained to obtain bodily substance samples and performed blood draws every day in her position as a medical assistant,” he wrote.

The judges also declined to suppress the blood evidence regarding Bisard’s reckless homicide charge. They sent the case back to Hawkins for further proceedings.
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Sept. 13

Civil Plenary – Eminent Domain/I-69 Project

Michael Patrick Knott and Andrew John Knott v. State of Indiana

28A04-1203-PL-122

The state may take property in Greene County over the objections of the owners for construction of a portion of Interstate 69, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

Michael Patrick Knott and Andrew John Knott appealed the trial court issuance of an order of appropriation and appointment of appraisers regarding 11.236 of the 45 acres they owned in Greene County. The state filed the complaint in eminent domain proceedings to obtain the portion of the Knotts’ land.

The Knotts objected, claiming the state and the Indiana Department of Transportation acted illegally and in bad faith because the I-69 project is proceeding in violation of certain federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act. The state’s complaint originally contained a scrivener’s error, but it was corrected to include the Knotts’ parcel.

Greene Circuit Judge Erik C. Allen entered an order striking the Knotts’ objections and entered the order of appropriation.

Indiana’s eminent domain laws do not require the state to comply with the federal statutes cited by the Knotts in their objection prior to appropriating private property for public purpose, Judge James Kirsch wrote.

Indiana Code 32-24-1-5.8 recognizes INDOT’s authority to acquire a parcel of land or property right for the construction of a state highway or toll road project. INDOT has the authority to acquire private or public property for limited access facilities and service roads based on I.C. 8-23-8-3. In addition, the federal statutes the Knotts cited in their objections don’t concern the acquisition of property but are related to collateral issues concerning the interstate project.

“INDOT’s judgment as to necessity of appropriating this land for the I-69 Project cannot be questioned or superseded by the judgment of this court,” he wrote. “While we affirm the State’s authority to take the Knotts’ property, we regret the hardship that this condemnation may cause the Knotts, notwithstanding the payment of just compensation.”
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Sept. 14

Post-Conviction –Deportation/Attorney Advisement

Mark Clarke v. State of Indiana

49A02-1202-PC-65

The Indiana Court of Appeals used its decision on a post-conviction relief appeal to “encourage” criminal defense attorneys to find out the citizenship of their clients and advise the clients as to the risks of deportation after pleading guilty.

Mark Clarke, who came to the U.S. from Barbados, claimed his trial attorney, Michael Caudill, provided ineffective assistance because he failed to inform Clarke that if he pleaded guilty to a drug charge, he could be deported. Caudill admitted in an affidavit that he did not advise Clarke that his guilty plea to Class B felony dealing in cocaine could subject him to deportation.

The post-conviction court denied Clarke’s petition for relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The judges analyzed his case using Segura v. State, 749 N.E.2d 496 (Ind. 2001). Clarke argued that the requisite special circumstances in his case that justify setting aside the plea are that he has been in the U.S. for 11 years, his two children were born here, and, if deported, he may not see them again.

Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote that 11 years is not a long enough time to compel a finding of special circumstances and pointed out that Clarke’s two children were still in-utero when he pleaded guilty in 2007 and he is not married to either of his children’s mothers.

Also, the state had a strong case against Clarke if it proceeded to trial, which included drugs, a large amount of cash in his car, and likely the testimony of the two officers at the scene of the traffic stop and arrest. Clarke also received a significant benefit in exchange for his guilty plea, Friedlander noted.

He failed to establish that he was prejudiced by Caudill’s failure to advise him of the risk of deportation.

The appellate court also devoted a portion of its opinion to suggest that defense attorneys find out whether their clients are citizens and, if not, tell them about the risks of deportation. This would “obviate the need for post-conviction and appellate courts to undertake a ‘special circumstances’ analysis,” he wrote.

Friedlander also pointed out that this issue is coming up in other states, and the early trend appears to be in favor of imposing a duty on criminal defense attorneys to ascertain the citizenship status of their clients.•

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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