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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. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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