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Man’s conviction of auto theft upheld

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Although a trial court’s refusal to give a defendant’s jury instruction was an error, it was harmless and his felony auto theft conviction should be affirmed, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In Joseph Matheny v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1207-CR-347, Joseph Matheny appealed his felony conviction on two grounds. First, he argued that a statement he made regarding his address to an officer was obtained in violation of his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, so it should not have been admitted at trial. The second is that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing his tendered jury instructions regarding the presumption of innocence.

Matheny was found by police in the early morning of March 24, 2012, sitting in a Honda Accord in a ditch with front end damage. The Accord belonged to a woman who reported it stolen from downtown Indianapolis the previous evening. Matheny appeared intoxicated and dropped the car’s key on the ground.

Matheny refused to identify himself, but when officers found his wallet and asked him to confirm his address, Matheny said he lived at Wheeler Mission. The mission is located very close to where the Accord was stolen. After he answered the officers, Matheny was read his Miranda  rights.

The judges affirmed the admittance of Matheny’s statement of his address to police, because questions regarding address do not fall within Miranda’s purview, Judge Terry Crone wrote.

“The fact that Matheny’s residence was ultimately incriminating does not retroactively transform Officer’s Klonne routine identification questions into interrogation for purposes of Miranda,” he wrote.

The judges found one of Matheny’s two tendered jury instructions was an incomplete and there was no error in not admitting it. But the court did err in not admitting the other instruction, the judges ruled, because Instruction No. 14, as the state had argued, did not adequately convey the essential principle that the jury should attempt to fit the evidence to the presumption that the accused is innocent.

The jury was instructed that Matheny was presumed innocent, didn’t have to prove his innocence, and the state had to prove he is guilty. In addition, the evidence doesn’t support a reasonable theory of innocence, Crone wrote, so the refusal to give the instruction was harmless error.  

 

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  1. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

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  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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