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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. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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