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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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