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Justices order retrial due to deficient jury instruction

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The Indiana Supreme Court found that a final jury instruction in a woman’s trial for receiving stolen property did not correctly state the law, and it remanded for a new trial.

In Lisa J. Kane v. State of Indiana, 30S04-1206-CR-372, Lisa Kane appealed her Class D felony conviction on the basis that the trial court abused its discretion in giving final instruction No. 12 on accomplice liability. At trial, her attorney objected to proposed instruction No. 8 on accomplice liability, which said, “You are instructed that when two or more persons combine to commit a crime, each is responsible for the acts of his confederate(s) committed in furtherance of the common design, the act of one being the act of all.”  

After a discussion between Kane’s attorney and the court, the proposed instruction was eventually included in final instruction No. 12 and mirrored the instruction used in Harrison v. State, 269 Ind. 677, 382 N.E.2d 920 (1978). It said, “Where two or more persons combine to commit a crime, each is criminally responsible for the acts of his or her confederates committed in furtherance of common design, the act of each being the act of all.”

A split Court of Appeals affirmed her conviction. Judge Michael Barnes dissented, finding that the final instruction was “outdated and woefully inadequate” and did not include the mental state requirement for accomplice liability.

The justices agreed with Barnes, overturning Kane’s conviction and ordering a retrial. They found the instruction was an incorrect statement of the law as it seemed to impose strict liability on Kane for the unlawful acts of her ex-boyfriend Sam Rifner whether she knew about them or not.

Due to economic reasons, Rifner and Kane had to move back in with their parents. At one point, Rifner’s mom noticed some items in her home were missing and Rifner admitted pawning some of them. Kane’s signature was on two of the pawn tickets. Kane maintained she didn’t know Rifner didn’t have permission to sell the items.

The justices found the error was not harmless because they couldn’t say the verdict would be the same if the jury had been properly instructed as to the knowledge requirement of the offense.
 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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