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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. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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