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Lawmakers discuss scope of police entry case

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A Bedford lawyer-legislator says a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision on resisting police entry has resulted in more feedback from attorneys and residents statewide than he’s experienced since the daylight saving time debate.

That comment set the stage for the first legislative subcommittee meeting June 29 aimed at exploring the court’s split decision May 12 in Barnes v. State, No. 82S05-1007-CR-343.

The justices' 3-2 ruling went further than any before on the issue of resisting police entry into a person’s home and held that Indiana no longer recognizes a common law right to resist in any situation. That decision fueled widespread outrage and critics say it goes too far and conflicts with both the Fourth Amendment and the state’s self-defense statute.

Though both sides have filed briefs requesting and supporting a rehearing, the Legislative Council created a four-person subcommittee to study this issue more in-depth.

Sen., Brent Steele, R-Bedford, who chairs the subcommittee, said he isn’t sure if the panel should wait on discussing and deciding this issue until the Supreme Court decides whether it’ll rehear the case.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to do something legislatively,” he said at the meeting. “How often have lawyers seen the court say that the legislature didn’t address something? We run the risk of looking like we’ve abrogated our duties and that we decided not to deal with it immediately.”

Aside from Steele, Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) and Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) were at the first meeting. Rep. Linda Lawson, (D-Hammond) did not attend. They passed out briefs filed in the case, as well as the justices’ ruling for everyone to review.

Lanane discussed his view of what the majority was saying – that any resistance can lead to an escalation of violence – and he wondered what the answer might be if any action is allowed by residents.

Lt. Mark Carnell, legal counsel for the Indiana State Police, said the ruling has had no impact on the agency's procedures and police don’t see it as giving officers any greater right to enter homes. Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, who is not a member of the subcommittee but attended the meeting to criticize the ruling, said he’d prefer police to hold off and wait when a situation is unclear.

Although the 11-page ruling states the court was deciding "the question of whether Indiana should recognize the common-law right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers," Steele and others question whether it also impacts Indiana statute delving into this issue. One statute is the 2006 “castle doctrine” that broadened state residents’ right to protect themselves from unlawful entries into their homes.

Legislative Services Agency attorney Andrew Hedges told the subcommittee members that the ruling could be interpreted to impact only common law or also the statues, but it’s not clear. He described the structure of the opinion as a possible “drafting error” because it switches from addressing the common law aspect to even broader wording about the general right to resist police entry, and that it's unclear about the scope of the ruling. Hedges said the court could have included a footnote addressing the statute, but didn’t and so court watchers are left wondering whether the justices forgot about that statutory impact or if they ignored it to only address the common law question. He questioned Justice David’s use of “in sum” when issuing the holding, and whether that means the holding is limited to common law or also abrogates any statutory right to resist.

Steele sees that as a problem that needs legislative attention.

“I see this as two trains headed toward each other on the same track that will collide someday,” he said, in reference to the Supreme Court ruling and the self-defense statute revised five years ago.

A date for the second meeting hasn’t been set, but the three members at the first meeting indicated that August might be the next time they can gather. This subcommittee’s role would simply be to recommend any legislative changes to the full General Assembly once it reconvenes for the 2011-12 session.

Meanwhile, the briefing period is finished and the Supreme Court is now deciding whether it will revisit the case. The justices have no timetable in making that decision and could hold additional arguments, request more material, or rule based on the briefs and past record in the appeal.

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  1. Should be beat this rap, I would not recommend lion hunting in Zimbabwe to celebrate.

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  4. All these sites putting up all the crap they do making Brent Look like A Monster like he's not a good person . First off th fight actually started not because of Brent but because of one of his friends then when the fight popped off his friend ran like a coward which left Brent to fend for himself .It IS NOT a crime to defend yourself 3 of them and 1 of him . just so happened he was a better fighter. I'm Brent s wife so I know him personally and up close . He's a very caring kind loving man . He's not abusive in any way . He is a loving father and really shouldn't be where he is not for self defense . Now because of one of his stupid friends trying to show off and turning out to be nothing but a coward and leaving Brent to be jumped by 3 men not only is Brent suffering but Me his wife , his kids abd step kidshis mom and brother his family is left to live without him abd suffering in more ways then one . that man was and still is my smile ....he's the one real thing I've ever had in my life .....f@#@ You Lafayette court system . Learn to do your jobs right he maybe should have gotten that year for misdemeanor battery but that s it . not one person can stand to me and tell me if u we're in a fight facing 3 men and u just by yourself u wouldn't fight back that you wouldn't do everything u could to walk away to ur family ur kids That's what Brent is guilty of trying to defend himself against 3 men he wanted to go home tohisfamily worse then they did he just happened to be a better fighter and he got the best of th others . what would you do ? Stand there lay there and be stomped and beaten or would u give it everything u got and fight back ? I'd of done the same only I'm so smallid of probably shot or stabbed or picked up something to use as a weapon . if it was me or them I'd do everything I could to make sure I was going to live that I would make it hone to see my kids and husband . I Love You Brent Anthony Forever & Always .....Soul 1 baby

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