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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. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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