Judge did not modify jury instructions

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A Lawrence County man was unable to prove to the Court of Appeals that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for a mistrial. He argued the judge modified the jury instructions when he answered a question from the jury in mid-deliberations.

Jason Fields was charged with two counts of Class B felony dealing in methamphetamine. He purchased the drug from a confidential informant of the Bedford Police Department for his roommate. During jury deliberations at Fields’ trial, the jury submitted a question to Lawrence Superior Judge William Sleva asking for clarification of final instruction 11. The jury wanted to know whether the second part of the instruction required the state to prove both the first and second parts of the instruction, or just one part. That instruction laid out that the state must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Fields’ conduct wasn’t the product of a law enforcement agent using persuasion or other means to cause Fields to engage in the conduct, or that Fields was predisposed to commit the offense.

Sleva told the jury the second part of the instruction is not both, it’s an “either/or.” That’s when Fields moved for a mistrial, which Sleva denied. He was convicted of both counts.

Fields argued on appeal that the trial court erred when it answered the jury question submitted after deliberations began, thereby “modifying” the final jury instructions. The Court of Appeals disagreed, citing Taylor v. State, 677 N.E.2d 56 (Ind. Ct. Ap. 1997), in support.

As in Taylor, Sleva merely answered the jury’s question of law arising out of the case and followed the procedure set out in Indiana Code 34-36-1-6 by calling the jury back to open court and answering the questions in the presence of counsel, Judge Edward Najam wrote. The trial court was not required to reread the final instructions in their entirety.



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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues