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Justices question prosecutor’s tactics, but decline to award new trial

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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that while a Marion County prosecutor committed one instance of prosecutorial misconduct during a man’s trial for sexual misconduct with a minor, the effect of this misconduct did not make a fair trial for the defendant impossible.

“We recognize only a single instance of prosecutorial misconduct, namely that the prosecutor improperly urged the jury to convict the defendant for reasons other than his own guilt. But we decline to conclude that the trial court erred by not correcting the prosecutor’s misstatements,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote in Bruce Ryan v. State of Indiana, 49S02-1311-CR-734.

The justices found no prosecutorial misconduct when the prosecutor commented on Ryan’s constitutional rights to a jury trial or on the truthfulness of the victim.

Bruce Ryan, an eight-grade science teacher, was charged with three counts of Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor after he had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. He was convicted on two counts, and on appeal, argued the convictions should be overturned due to remarks made by the deputy prosecutor during closing arguments.

The prosecutor alluded to “the bigger picture,” mentioned other perpetrators such as a teacher or pastor, and then implored the jury to “send the message that we’re not going to allow people to do this.”

“This clearly invited the jury to convict this defendant for reasons other than his own guilt, therefore constituting improper conduct,” Dickson wrote.

But Ryan’s failure to contemporaneously object and enable the trial court to take correct action resulted in procedural default of his appellate claim. The high court found no fundamental error occurred, requiring reversal of his convictions.

“Without question, the characterization of defense counsel’s line of argumentation as ‘how guilty people walk’ and a ‘trick,’ is inconsistent with the requirement that lawyers ‘demonstrate respect for the legal system and those who serve it, including … other lawyers,’” Dickson wrote. “But the defendant has failed to establish that, under all of the circumstances, such improper comments placed him in a position of grave peril to which he would not have been subjected to otherwise.”

“While we do not endorse the prosecutor’s trial tactics in this case, we affirm the judgment of the trial court,” Dickson wrote.

Justice Robert Rucker concurred in result without a separate opinion.  
 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. "...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.

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

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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