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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. The $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

  2. $160k? Yesterday the figure was $320k. Which is it Indiana Lawyer. And even more interesting, which well connected law firm got the (I am guessing) $320k, six time was the fired chancellor received. LOL. (From yesterday's story, which I guess we were expected to forget overnight ... "According to records obtained by the Journal & Courier, Purdue spent $161,812, beginning in July 2012, in a state open records lawsuit and $168,312, beginning in April 2013, for defense in a federal lawsuit. Much of those fees were spent battling court orders to release an independent investigation by attorney John Trimble that found Purdue could have handled the forced retirement better")

  3. The numbers are harsh; 66 - 24 in the House, 40 - 10 in the Senate. And it is an idea pushed by the Democrats. Dead end? Ummm not necessarily. Just need to go big rather than go home. Nuclear option. Give it to the federal courts, the federal courts will ram this down our throats. Like that other invented right of the modern age, feticide. Rights too precious to be held up by 2000 years of civilization hang in the balance. Onward!

  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

  5. It's just an ill considered remark. The Sup Ct is inherently political, as it is a core part of government, and Marbury V Madison guaranteed that it would become ever more so Supremely thus. So her remark is meaningless and she just should have not made it.... what she could have said is that Congress is a bunch of lazys and cowards who wont do their jobs so the hard work of making laws clear, oftentimes stops with the Sups sorting things out that could have been resolved by more competent legislation. That would have been a more worthwhile remark and maybe would have had some relevance to what voters do, since voters cant affect who gets appointed to the supremely un-democratic art III courts.

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