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Panel dismisses contempt appeal as moot

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A man held in contempt of court after a judge determined he threatened witnesses in his brother’s murder case had his appeal dismissed Tuesday.

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed Dayron Bell’s appeal as moot because he had served his sentence. Only one of the four appellate issues he raised as justifying review was considered: whether the public interest exception justified appeal.

In Dayron Bell v. State of Indiana, 82A01-1306-CR-271, Bell appealed a finding that he was in direct contempt of court, arguing instead that he should have been held in indirect contempt for comments he made outside the courtroom to witnesses in the murder trial of his brother, Christopher.

Dayron Bell was ordered jailed for the duration of the trial, after which he was formally sentenced to serve 90 days in the Vanderburgh County Jail with no good time credit. His sentence was completed in August.

On appeal, he argued the court should use the public interest exception because: he claimed he was denied due process; that a similar situation was likely to arise again, so the court should weigh whether the incident was direct or indirect contempt; and that the court should review whether the denial of credit for time served was proper.

“Nothing in the facts of Bell’s case persuades this court that the issues raised by Bell are of ‘great public importance,’” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the panel, noting his appeal conflates the public-interest exception with error review. "That is not the purpose of this limited exception, and we will not deviate from our general rule of not deciding moot cases based on these facts. Accordingly, we decline Bell’s invitation to apply the public interest exception to this appeal, and we dismiss Bell’s appeal as moot.”  

 


 

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