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Judges order new robbery trial

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Because a trial judge did not re-read all of the jury instructions when giving jurors an additional instruction after deliberations began, the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial on the felony robbery charge.

Robert Dowell was charged with Class A felony robbery resulting in serious bodily injury stemming from an attack by Dowell, his girlfriend, and another man on Roman Nusbaum. The three decided to rob Nusbaum after seeing him at a bar. The girlfriend lured Nusbaum to another location where Dowell hit him with a bat.

After the jury began deliberations, jurors had a few questions as to the elements of robbery. The jury foreman submitted a handwritten note with the questions. Cass Superior Senior Judge Douglas Morton responded to the questions by writing on the note, “Indiana law provides that a person who aids another person to commit an offense commits that offense.” He did not call the jury back into the room nor did he re-read all the instructions, including the new one on accomplice liability. The jury convicted Dowell as charged.

In Robert Dowell v. State of Indiana, 09A05-1201-CR-36, the Court of Appeals reversed based on Crowdus v. State, 431 N.E.2d 796, 798 (Ind. 1982), and Graves v. State, 714 N.E.2d 724, 726 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999). The Indiana Supreme Court “has long recognized that once jury deliberations begin, the trial court should not give any additional instructions,” Judge Melissa May wrote, with the exception of when the jury’s question coincides with an error or “legal lacuna” in the final instructions.

In those cases, the trial judge should re-read the entire set of final instructions as to not place special significance or emphasis on the particular issue raised by the jury.

The judges reversed and ordered a new trial for Dowell.

 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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