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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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