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Justices vacate transfer in pot bust case heard in Merrillville

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A divided appellate court ruling upholding a marijuana conviction resulting from a tip that led to a traffic stop will stand after the Indiana Supreme Court vacated transfer.

Four of five justices chose Wednesday to vacate transfer in Phillip T. Billingsley v. State of Indiana, 02S05-1303-CR-160. Justice Robert Rucker dissented from the order vacating transfer and would reverse the trial court.

Billingsley was convicted of Class D felony possession of marijuana after an Allen County bench trial. Fort Wayne police found the pot in Billingsley’s vehicle parked at a VFW post after receiving a tip from a 911 caller. Billingsley appealed, claiming that an officer pulled a gun on him as he sat in the vehicle and he was then placed under arrest. He challenged whether the officer had a reasonable suspicion to initiate an investigatory stop.

A divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Billingsley’s conviction, noting the caller claimed to have been a victim of Billingsley’s criminal activity and a witness to ongoing criminal activity. But Judge James Kirsch argued that nothing known to police or the court allowed for a determination of the veracity of the information the caller provided and that the information was insufficient to satisfy state and federal court standards for investigatory stops.

Oral arguments were heard by about 400 people May 9 at Merrillville High School in an event organized by the Lake County Bar Association.

“Thereafter, we discussed the case in more detail at our weekly conference. After again considering the points raised in the parties’ briefs and the points made by the attorneys at the oral argument in Lake County, it is the view of a majority of the justices that the Court should not assume jurisdiction over this appeal, and that the Court of Appeals opinion be the final decision in this case,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote in the order.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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