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Justices address judicial-temperance presumption

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The Indiana Supreme Court used an opinion Thursday to reaffirm the limitation described in Fletcher v. State on the judicial-temperance presumption.

Joshua Konopasek appealed his Class C felony conviction of battery causing serious bodily injury. At his trial, Konopasek claimed he pushed the victim in self defense, but he didn’t cause the victim’s broken jaw. On direct examination, Konopasek’s attorney elicited testimony from Konopasek regarding his probationary status; on cross-examination, the state asked Konopasek “And you’ve got quite a bit of time hanging over your head?” Konopasek objected, but the judge allowed the question.

On appeal, Konopasek argued, among other things, that the trial court abused its discretion when admitting evidence elicited by the state regarding his probation. The Indiana Court of Appeals found the court shouldn’t have admitted the evidence, but it was a harmless error. The judges concluded that Konopasek didn’t overcome the judicial-temperance presumption – the presumption that in a bench trial, the judge will disregard inadmissible and irrelevant evidence.

The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer to address the admissibility of the evidence in question and to reaffirm Fletcher v. State, 264 Ind. 132, 340 N.E.2d 771 (1976), as it relates to the judicial-temperance presumption. The justices affirmed the Court of Appeals on the remaining issues and affirmed Konopasek’s conviction and sentence.

In Joshua Konopasek v. State of Indiana, No. 25S03-1012-CR-669, the Supreme Court reviewed the admission of Konopasek’s testimony on the length of his suspended sentence only, and only considered the relevancy of the testimony in question. The justices found the testimony was a classic “he said-he said” case, wrote Justice Steven David, and evidence impeaching Konopasek was significantly relevant. They also held the probative value of the evidence wasn’t outweighed by unfair prejudice.

Turning to Fletcher, Justice David explained that the Supreme Court set parameters on the judicial-temperance presumption in cases where a defendant makes a specific objection to the admission of evidence. The justices decided not to apply the judicial-temperance presumption to the instant case because the evidence in question was relevant and admissible.

The justices then went on to reaffirm the limits on the presumption as explained in Fletcher and clarified the interplay between the presumption and harmless-error analysis.

“On appeal, when a defendant challenges the admissibility of evidence at a bench trial and the evidence in fact was inadmissible, the judicial-temperance presumption comes into play. One way a defendant can overcome the presumption is by showing the trial court admitted the evidence over a specific objection, as in Fletcher,” wrote the justice. “If a defendant does overcome the presumption, the reviewing court then engages in full harmless-error analysis: the error is harmless if the ‘reviewing court is satisfied that the conviction is supported by substantial independent evidence of guilt so that there is no substantial likelihood that the challenged evidence contributed to the conviction.’ Meadows v. State, 785 N.E.2d 1112, 1122 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003). If a defendant cannot overcome the presumption, a reviewing court presumes the trial court disregarded the improper evidence and accordingly finds the error harmless.”
 

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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