Justices will consider corporal punishment case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court will take up the issue of a mother's authority to discipline her child by applying corporal punishment, paving the way for justices to analyze the legal line between parental control and child battery.

Justices granted transfer Wednesday in Sophia Willis v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-06110-CR-982, which the Indiana Court of Appeals had decided May 17. Appellate judges affirmed the Marion Superior Court judgment finding sufficient evidence to convict Willis, mother of an 11-year-old, of misdemeanor child battery for spanking her son with what's described as either a belt or extension cord.

A reason detailed at trial for the February 2006 incident was that her son took a bag of women's clothing to give to a classmate at school, though a fifth-grade teacher confiscated it and notified the mother. At home, Willis used an extension cord or belt to spank him seven times - to the point of causing bruises or pain. A few days later, he reported still being sore, asked his teacher if "being whipped with an extension cord was child abuse," and requested to see the school nurse who then notified child protective services.

Willis was charged within a week for felony child battery and was convicted after a bench trial in August. Commissioner Danielle Gaughan reduced her conviction to a Class A misdemeanor and sentenced her to 365 days in jail with 357 days suspended to probation. Willis appealed on grounds that insufficient evidence existed to support her conviction.

"We sympathize with Willis's argument that she is a single parent who is doing the best that she can, be we cannot condone her choice to whip her child with an extension cord to the point of causing him pain," the court wrote, noting that it doesn't reweigh evidence and gives deference to the trial court.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals panel - Chief Judge John Baker and Judges Ezra Friedlander and Terry Crone - noted that Indiana Code section 35-41-3-1 provides a parent has the right to employ reasonable corporal punishment to discipline a child, but there are limits to that right. Appellate judges echoed a past finding that there's "precious little Indiana caselaw providing guidance as to what constitutes proper and reasonable parental discipline of children, and there are no bright-line rules." That sentiment was mentioned in Mitchell v. State, 813 N.E.2d 427 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), which held that dropping a 4-year-old to the floor and kicking him was child battery.

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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.