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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. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  2. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  3. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  4. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  5. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

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