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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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