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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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