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Justices rule trial court didn't err in granting mistrial

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The Indiana Supreme Court found that although a defendant didn’t consent to a mistrial, the trial judge didn’t abuse his discretion in finding that a mistrial was justified by “manifest necessity.”

Nathan Brock appealed his conviction of Class C felony operating a motor vehicle after forfeiture of driving privileges for life. He was charged with violating Indiana Code 9-30-10-17. His defense counsel made several improper statements to the jury, including insinuating that redacted material in Brock’s driving record may have been beneficial to Brock. The state moved for a mistrial, but Jay Superior Judge Max Ludy Jr. denied it and ordered that evidence would be reopened. After a short recess, Ludy decided to grant the request for a mistrial and discharged the jury.

Brock filed a motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds just before his second trial was to begin. The trial court denied that motion and he was convicted. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, finding Brock waived his right to claim double jeopardy because he didn’t timely object to the state’s motion for a mistrial, and manifest necessity justified the judge’s decision.

In Nathan Brock v. State of Indiana, No. 38S02-1101-CR-8, the justices found Brock did not consent to the trial judge’s declaration of a mistrial, adopting the approach taken by the federal appellate courts which held that a defendant consents to a mistrial when he or she has an opportunity to object and fails to do so. These courts have also recognized that sometimes there is no opportunity to object and to prohibit a defendant from raising a double jeopardy claim under these circumstances would be too harsh, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

“Brock’s failure to object cannot be taken as tacit consent to mistrial in this case because there was no opportunity to raise a contemporaneous objection,” wrote the justice. “And the totality of the circumstances fails to reveal that Brock otherwise consented to the declaration of a mistrial.”

The Supreme Court agreed that manifest necessity supported the declaration of a mistrial. Brock’s counsel’s comments to the jury were improper, and Ludy gave the attorney several chances to explain himself and to continue with his closing without confusing the jury, but the attorney seemed to ignore the trial judge’s directions, wrote Sullivan. In addition, had the trial judge allowed the first trial to proceed and had defense counsel’s erroneous comments confused the jury to the point that it acquitted Brock, the state wouldn’t have been able to appeal that decision.
 

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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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