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Justices disagree about jury instruction

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The Indiana Supreme Court was split in its ruling that a trial court properly instructed a jury regarding a habitual offender finding, with the dissenters arguing the court's instruction was inadequate as compared to the defendant's proposed jury instruction.

In Larry C. Walden v. State, No. 18S02-0710-CR-458, the Supreme Court granted transfer to Larry Walden's appeal to address whether the trial court erred in rejecting Walden's proposed jury instruction regarding the jury's authority to not find him to be a habitual offender. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justices Frank Sullivan and Theodore Boehm affirmed the trial court's tendered instruction and rejection of Walden's proposed instruction; Justices Brent Dickson and Robert Rucker dissented, finding the trial court's instruction to be too broad for the jury.

The high court examined its earlier rulings in Holden v. State, 788 N.E.2d 1253, 1253-54 (Ind. 2003), which made clear Indiana juries don't have a broad, general nullification power in criminal cases, and Seay v. State, 698 N.E.2d 732, 737 (Ind. 1998), which the court held a jury may make a habitual offender determination "irrespective of the uncontroverted proof of prior felonies."

In Seay, the Supreme Court had found implicitly Article I, Section 19 applies during the habitual offender phase. In the instant case, the majority wrote that statement wasn't necessary in Seay, and the Indiana Constitution shouldn't have been identified as additional support for the holding and now consider those comments to be obiter dicta.

Under the analysis of a trial court's refusal of a jury instruction, the majority found Walden's tendered jury instruction was a correct statement of law and the trial court's jury instruction covered the material by the rejected instruction. The majority found trial court's instruction, "Under the Constitution of Indiana you have the right to determine both the law and the facts," to be of substance the same information contained in Walden's requested instruction.

But Justices Rucker and Dickson believed the trial court's instruction was generic and broad. Walden's instruction gave express guidance to the jury on what it means to determine the law in the habitual offender context, wrote Justice Rucker.

"Simply advising the jury that it has the right to determine the law and the facts falls woefully short of explaining how this right may be exercised. In contrast, Walden's tendered instruction fills this void," wrote Justice Rucker.

Concurring with Justice Rucker in a separate opinion, Justice Dickson wrote he disagreed with the majority's minimization of the role of Article I, Section 19 in Seay. He also wrote he couldn't agree that the trial court's "broad, unspecific, and opaque instruction" was sufficient to inform the jury of the legal principle embodied in Walden's tendered instruction.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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