Indiana Supreme Court endorses new jury instructions for mentally ill defendants

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Although it affirmed the judgment of the post-conviction court in denying relief, the Indiana Supreme Court endorsed a change in jury instructions regarding mentally ill defendants.

Brad Passwater appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in part, because the instructions approved by the Indiana Supreme Court were misleading, leaving the jury to believe he could be released from an outpatient facility 90 days after being found guilty of murder.

At his trial for the murder of his mother, Passwater’s counsel requested jury instruction on the penal consequences of guilty but mentally ill and not responsible by reason of insanity verdicts. Instead, the trial court gave the instructions approved by the state Supreme Court in Georgopulos v. State 735 N.E. 2d 1138, 1143 n.3 (Ind. 2000).

In Brad W. Passwater v. State of Indiana, 48S05-1210-PC-583, the Indiana Supreme Court reconsidered the Georgopulos instructions which are given in cases where the jury is faced with the option of finding a defendant not responsible by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill.

The court noted the second part of the Georgopulos instruction tried to synthesize the relevant portions of the state statutes. However, the court emphasized the composite is not without flaws.

Specifically, the approved Georgopulos instructions includes the phrase: “If, upon the completion of the hearing, the court finds that defendant is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled, then the court may order the defendant to be committed to an appropriate facility, or enter an outpatient treatment program of not more than ninety (90) days.”

The court then turned to the instruction provided in the Indiana Pattern Jury Instruction 11.20.

There, the phrase is rewritten as: “If the court finds that the Defendant is mentally ill and either dangerous or gravely disabled then the court may order the Defendant to be either placed in an outpatient treatment program of not more than ninety (90) days, or committed to an appropriate mental health facility until a court determines commitment is no longer needed.”

Writing for the court, Justice Robert Rucker concluded, “We are of the view that the Pattern Instruction represents an improvement over the instruction this Court found appropriate in Georgopulos and thus endorse and approve its use.”



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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.