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Justices: No error in declaring mistrial

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A trial court's determination to discharge a jury at a defendant's second trial wasn't an abuse of discretion, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

At issue in Gary Dennis Jackson v. State of Indiana, No. 39S01-0907-CR-309, was whether the jury at Gary Dennis Jackson's second trial for battery should have been dismissed and whether Jackson's conviction at his third trial violated double jeopardy rules. Jackson's first trial ended in a hung jury; the same day the jury was sworn in for his second trial, a newspaper article ran about the trial with an excerpt from a letter Jackson wrote to the prosecutor trying his case. The state requested a mistrial because it believed an admonishment to the jury couldn't overcome the prejudice against the state created by the article. Five jurors admitted to being exposed to the article. The trial court granted the motion for mistrial.

At Jackson's third trial, he was convicted of Class C felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, finding the trial court abused its discretion in granting the mistrial and the retrial was barred by double jeopardy.

Citing various United States Supreme Court and Indiana appellate decisions on mistrials, the Supreme Court found the trial court's decision to grant the mistrial and order a new trial wasn't an abuse of discretion. The justices disagreed with Jackson that the trial court had to make explicit findings or give explanations as to why it granted the mistrial. The trial court also wasn't required to admonish the jury or attempt other measures before declaring the mistrial.

"The trial court's decision is bolstered by the fact that the jurors were exposed to the article the same day they were impaneled and the mistrial was declared the next day. This was before any evidence was introduced, and even before opening statements," wrote Justice Theodore Boehm.

The justices also affirmed the exclusion of a paramedic's testimony that while he was treating the victim, someone said that the victim fell and hit his head against the wall. The paramedic's account was hearsay and not admissible under any exclusions. The high court also found sufficient evidence to support Jackson's conviction.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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