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Judges affirm criminal reckless conviction

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A man who turned his car sharply enough to force his girlfriend out of the car and onto the road had his conviction of Class A misdemeanor criminal recklessness affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Michael Zanussi argued the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for a continuance one day before his jury trial was to begin, that the trial court committed fundamental error when it admitted letters he wrote while in jail before trial, and that the state didn’t prove he committed the crime.

Zanussi was arguing in his car with Danielle Effinger when she became upset and unhooked her seatbelt and opened the door just enough that it wasn’t latched anymore. Zanussi then hit the gas and turned the wheel sharply, causing the door to fly open. Effinger flew out of the car and suffered minor injuries.

Five days before his trial was to start, Zanussi obtained replacement counsel. His new attorney said he could be prepared for the March 19 jury trial, but the day before the trial was set to start, the attorney sought a continuance because he had to travel to Chicago that day. The trial court denied the continuance.

Zanussi said he needed the continuance to deal with new evidence, but the attorney was granted time to discuss the new evidence with Zanussi prior to the start of trial, Judge Melissa May pointed out in Michael E. Zanussi v. State of Indiana, 29A05-1304-CR-173. Zanussi’s attorney also previously told the judge that he was prepared for trial, and there was no explanation how the motion to continue would aid in his preparation.

The judges found no fundamental error in the admittance of letters Zanussi wrote to Effinger while in jail that encouraged her not to testify. The state redacted the portions of the letter indicating Zanussi was in jail when he wrote the letters.

“Zanussi does not indicate specifically how the admission of the letters deprived him of a fair trial. The letters, especially Exhibit 7R, are highly probative, as they include statements indicating Zanussi was guilty and asking Effinger not to testify. Effinger’s mention that the letters were sent from jail was fleeting, as it happened once, and the State agreed to redact portions of the letters that indicated Zanussi was in jail. As the letters were not more prejudicial than probative, their admission was not an abuse of discretion and did amount to fundamental error,” May 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.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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