Justices reverse rule of law going back to Civil War era

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After requiring for nearly 150 years that a defendant charged with murder or treason be required to prove he or she is entitled to bail, a divided Indiana Supreme Court ruled it now falls upon the state to show that “the proof is evident or the presumption strong” that the defendant is guilty and not entitled to bail.

In making the about-face Tuesday in Loren Hamilton Fry v. State of Indiana, 09S00-1205-CR-361, the majority on the high court also affirmed the trial court’s finding that Indiana Code 35-33-8-2(b), which says a person charged with murder has the burden of proof that he should be admitted to bail, is unconstitutional.

Justice Steven David wrote for the majority, which included Chief Justice Dickson and Justices Mark Massa and Loretta Rush. The case stems from Loren Fry’s challenge to the denial of bail. Fry is charged with murder in Cass County and sought bail, claiming the state’s evidence against him was circumstantial. He also sought a declaration that I.C. 35-33-8-2(b), which places on the defendant charged with murder the burden of proving why he should be admitted to bail, is unconstitutional.

The right to bail is also outlined in Article 1, Section 17 of the Indiana Constitution, which says murder or treason are not bailable when the proof is evident or the presumption strong. The section does not say who bears the burden of proof.

David pointed out that the burden on the defendant has been in place since a case from 1866, and the caselaw supporting it involved people charged under grand jury investigations and habeas corpus cases. The majority decided that it is fair that the party seeking to apply the exception to the right to bail – the state – should be the one required to prove it.

They rejected the state’s argument that the process of requiring the defendant to prove bail should continue because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” as a poor excuse for continuing to do something wrong.

“By placing the burden on the defendant accused of murder or treason in a bail proceeding, we are in effect requiring him, while hampered by incarceration, to disprove the State’s case pre-trial in order to earn the right to be unhampered by incarceration as he prepares to disprove the State’s case at trial. There is no valid justification for such a backwards process,” David wrote.

The opinion also outlines what is contemplated by the burden assigned to the state as to when the proof is evident or the presumption strong. David also cautioned that the opinion shouldn’t be construed to modify – either enhance or diminish – the due process protections that have always been required at bail hearings. The high court affirmed the denial of bail for Fry because the trial court directed the state to proceed first and present its evidence to show that the proof was evident or the presumption strong.

Dickson wrote a concurring opinion in which he says he found determinative the actual language of the Right to Bail Clause of the Indiana Constitution.

“I am convinced that the standard established today represents a proper understanding and application of the Indiana Constitution's Right to Bail Clause, and I thus concur,” he wrote, and Rush joined.

Justice Mark Massa concurred in result regarding the decision to deny Fry bail, but dissented on the majority’s holding that I.C. 35-33-8-2(b) is unconstitutional. He noted he agreed with and joined Justice Robert Rucker’s dissent, but wrote separately to reaffirm and support the high court’s past precedent and longstanding adherence to “an originalist interpretation of our state constitution.”

Rucker concurred with Massa’s dissent, and in his dissent wrote, “In one fell swoop, today the Court overrules nearly 150 years of precedent and declares a 30-year-old statute unconstitutional. Because I am not prepared to go that far, I respectfully dissent.”

He believed the court didn’t need to address the constitutional issue at all.



  • Corrections,
    My mistakes are, disagreement, the word quit should preceed freeloading and cases of justice, should be cases of injustice.
  • Conflict,
    Yes, conflict, there is so much conflict and dis agreement among the justices of the Indiana supreme court, maybe the should find another line of work. Maybe they should just find work and freeloading off the taxpayers. Of course requiring a suspect to prove he is entitled to bail, is unconstitutional. It is real enlightning to know that it only took the court 150 years to correct this mistake, which assuredly was the cause of many cases of justice. I don't even want to think about how many were put to death, during this time!
  • Links are broken
    Lately, I have noticed your links to cases do not work. The link to your lead story does not work today.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.