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Man to get new trial on meth, marijuana charges

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An Elkhart man is entitled to a new trial on drug charges after the Indiana Court of Appeals found the police failed to “scrupulously honor” his right to remain silent.

Efren Mendoza-Vargas was charged and convicted of Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine, Class D felony maintaining a common nuisance and Class D felony possession of marijuana. The Elkhart County Interdiction and Covert Enforcement team executed a warrant at the home where Mendoza-Vargas lived. He was handcuffed while police searched the home. They found large amounts of money, methamphetamine and marijuana.

ICE employee Jennifer Gomez, who is fluent in English and Spanish, read Mendoza-Vargas his Miranda rights in Spanish. He said he understood these rights. He shook his head “no” as to whether he wanted to answer questions. But police kept asking him questions, even one about rubber bands found in the house. He was given a few minutes to decide whether he wanted to answer questions.

After 10 minutes, an officer asked Mendoza-Vargas if he could ask a question, then asked if his “contact” was in Indiana. Mendoza-Vargas then explained he got the drugs from Mexico.

Instead of immediately ceasing any questions after Mendoza-Vargas indicated he didn’t want to talk, police kept questioning him. And officers never re-read Mendoza-Vargas his Miranda rights again after he began answering questions, Judge Paul Mathias wrote.

The trial court abused its discretion when it admitted his statements to police into evidence because police “failed to scrupulously honor Mendoza-Vargas’s right to remain silent,” the judges held in Efren Mendoza-Vargas v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1201-CR-27.

This was not a harmless error, but he may be retired without the admittance of the statements to police.

 

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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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